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Love thy neighbour: religious groups should not be exempt from discrimination laws

A little over a century ago, our first prime minister told our first parliament that “the doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman…

It’s time some religious organisations saw the light about employing LGBT individuals. Leonard John Matthews

A little over a century ago, our first prime minister told our first parliament that “the doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman”. Barton had the abstract principle right, but he couldn’t see non-Europeans as the sort of people to whom it could apply. He could not see their inner lives, their concerns, passions and beliefs, as being as morally significant as his own.

In his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker points out that for all our talk of moral decline, we are actually living in the least violent, least cruel and most peaceful era in human history.

Much of this progress, I’d suggest, is due not to better moral reasoning or principles, but to our improving moral vision.

We have come a long way since that first parliament, and we’re learning – gradually, fitfully, and painfully – to see what Barton could not see, to view others as no less worthy of our regard on the basis of irrelevant differences such as race, religion, or sexuality.

But what happens when the competing demands of religious and sexual identities collide in the public sphere?

The Gillard government has announced it will preserve existing exemptions in anti-discrimination legislation, allowing religious organisations to refuse to employ LGBT individuals – and indeed anyone else whose very presence might cause “injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion”. The Australian Christian Lobby has hailed this as a win for “religious freedom”.

This is disingenuous at best. The issue really has nothing to do with the free exercise of one’s religion and everything to do with denying the moral depth of gay and lesbian lives.

To be clear, we are not simply talking about issues of job performance. It’s hard to see how being gay would be an impediment to doing many, if any, of the diverse jobs available in the various faith-based charities, schools, hospitals and universities around Australia.

Rather, groups such as ACL are defending the “right” to refuse to hire someone, not because their actions might be contrary to the mission or ethos of a religious employer, but because who they are might offend against someone’s “religious sensitivities”. It is a rejection of who the employee is, not what they do.

This fact is sometimes obscured by calling homosexuality a “lifestyle” – a deliberately shallow, superficial word designed to deny the profundity of someone’s core relationships. It implies that homosexuality is some sort of inessential add-on rather than a defining feature of the person. My relationship is a central, non-negotiable part of who I am; your relationship is just some stylistic choice, like installing marble benchtops or wearing Crocs.

Sometimes, instead, discrimination is justified by claiming that what’s hated is the sin, not the sinner. This may be a sincerely held view, but it too ignores just how deeply integral romantic and sexual love is to our practical identities. It denies the same depth to same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and so implicitly refuses to acknowledge the significance of what it claims to be offended by.

The question here isn’t whether (some) religious believers are right or wrong to be offended by homosexuality in this way. Nor is it whether we should respect the deep religious convictions of believers.

Rather, it’s whether society is obliged to respect this sort of offence enough to override other moral considerations. And this takes us to the clash between private faith and public moral reasons.

Religious faith, however it finds expression, is an essentially inward, private state of profound certainty. It may involve reasons, but these are not the sort of reasons that can be shared with non-believers. I doubt anyone has ever been moved from atheism into genuine religious faith (as opposed to mere lip service) by force of rational argument alone. Trying to argue someone into religious belief is like trying to make someone fall in love with you by telling them all the reasons why they should: it won’t work, and even if it did, it wouldn’t be because of your arguments themselves but because of something else.

For some believers, then, there may be an unshakable inner certainty that homosexuality is immoral. It would be wrong for those of us who disagree to simply trivialise that view, as it may be linked to fundamental beliefs that are central to the believer’s conception of him or herself and what a good life comprises. I’ve heard Christians say how torn they are between their love for gay friends and family and their belief in the authority of scripture. I don’t doubt their sincerity, nor the difficulty it presents them.

But when it comes to matters of public ethics, beliefs that are grounded in religious faith simply don’t cut it on their own. Believers and non-believers have to share a society, and that means our moral discourse has to be based on premises it’s at least possible for us to agree upon. “I find working with gay people offensive because God says homosexuality is wrong” is simply not such a premise.

It may be an important fact about the lives of some believers, but it doesn’t justify employment discrimination. Surely we’ve come at least far enough to see that.

Join the conversation

526 Comments sorted by

  1. Gavin Moodie
    Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct professor at RMIT University

    I agree with this.

    A somewhat different but perhaps easier position to win is that activities subsidised by the public, including schools and hospitals, should not be exempt from anti discrimination legislation.

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    1. David Lamond

      Adjunct Professor of HRM & International Business at Victoria University

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I'm with you Gavin - if these faith-based organisations want "freedom of religion", we (the people through our governments) should be free not to fund their discriminatory practices.

      With a couple of colleagues several years ago, I wrote about the problems that faith-based service organisations have in serving two "masters", the demands informed by the values of their faith inspired mission on the one hand, and the requirements of the funding agencies, informed by a differing value set (human and administrative), on the other.

      This is a very good example of those competing demands - again, we should respect "freedom of religion", but within the confines of the country's legislative framework. Where those faith-based "values" conflict with the expectations of the funder, the funder should be free to withhold monies acccordingly.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      I agree Gavin and also David.

      The Roman church is the chief respondent in the present Royal Commission into Child Abuse & the practice of bishops protecting priests accused of pederasty.

      Then why should church schools be exempt from having public holidays like every other citizen ... or is child minding on the parents' day off included as part of the middle class charity funding private schools from the public purse?

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to David Lamond

      "should be free not to fund their discriminatory practices. "
      I am not sure you do fund discriminatory practices. Many people who get very large salaries courtesy of the taxpayer have very skewed ideas of the claim of governments over the monies of their citizens. To put it simply governments take money from their citizens in order to spend it in ways its citizens see as appropriate.

      For example the government takes money from Catholics in order to fund a state school system. Catholics say very politely they would prefer to send their children to their own schools and it would it be possible to have a portion (and only a portion) of the money they pay to the state system to be diverted back to their system.

      Hence you are not funding the allegedly discriminatory practices of Catholic schools, but Catholics are funding the enormous salaries of Pro Vice Chancellors.

      I wonder exactly who is getting the raw deal here.

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    4. Bruce Tabor

      Research Scientist at CSIRO

      In reply to David Lamond

      David,
      Your concept of "we (the people through our governments)" is a highly mercurial one. There is a diversity of views among the Australian people, and many would agree with the exemption so bitterly attacked by Patrick. This diversity is reflected in our parliament, a majority of whom wisely appear to disagree with you, often despite their personal views.

      Perhaps we should allow the popular majority to override this diversity? Barton's view of a Chinaman being "less equal" than an Englishman was almost certainly the the view of the majority at the time, yet I suspect is rejected by Australians today. We need a democracy that respects and accommodates reasonable diversity, not a tyranny of the majority like that the Chinese suffered in Barton's time.

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    5. Steven Liaros

      Town planner at PolisPlan - town planning and eco-village consultants

      In reply to Bruce Tabor

      Bruce,
      It seems that the diversity that you are seeking relates to a diversity of opportunities to discriminate... and that its acceptable to discriminate if a group of people agree to it... and that the agreement by the majority to discrimate against the Chinese in Barton's time is somehow different to the agreement by religious groups to discriminate against gay people.

      I like Gandhi's words...
      "Truth is God".
      If you say 'God is truth' then you are defining the truth around scriptures or your ideas about God. If you say 'Truth is God' then you are pursuing truth irrespective of where it may take you. If you pursue truth you must ask yourself whether discrimination, exclusion and inequality are what your God asks of you.

      "God has no religion"... Gandhi

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    6. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      i'm not sure that argument is all that robust.

      Governments tax across the board and don't pool these funds based upon the religous denomination of the people paying them.

      The difference between public and private education is that in Public, EVERYONE has the right to enrol and obtain benefit of the services paid for by the public purse. Catholic schools through the discrimination exemption can refuse to enrol students that don't fit within their ethos, thereby refusing to provide the benefit…

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    7. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Further, what harm do you suppose occurs to a young gay person who's parents enrol them in a private catholic school where he/she are told that he/she will go surely go to hell, not because of anything they have done, but for who they are.

      And that it is ok to treat them in a lesser fashion and discriminate against them for no other reason than that of being gay.

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    8. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      "Governments tax across the board and don't pool these funds based upon the religous denomination of the people paying them."
      Indeed, and parents who wish to send their children to secular private schools also benefit from this partial refund - while still continuing to subsidize the state service they do not use.
      In the end Governments are determined by things called "elections" and since *horror* Christians actually are allowed a vote as well all parties endorse this partial refund of taxes to assist in private schooling.
      Don't like it, persuade your party of choice to go to an election promising to abolish it. Meanwhile Christian parents will continue to uncomplaining subsidize the education needs of secular parents.

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    9. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      we all subsidise both private and public schools, i don't have kids so why do my taxes go to supporting schools of any stripe?

      Why do i have to subsidise subsidies for profitable corporate enterprises?

      Why do i have to subsidise fat persons lap banding operations?

      Why do I not get a refund for the taxes paid for this purpose?

      We all vote, whether athiest, agnostic, christian, muslim, buddhist, flying spaghetti monsterists or Jedi.

      I think you are missing the point. We are ALL Australians…

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    10. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Catholic school sector is not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, if they were deprived of the portion of taxes of their parents that is returned to them, a large number of them would probably have no choice but to shut down. We aren't talking Scots College here.
      In any case since about 1/3 of children use the private sector you are whistling in the dark if you think either party is going to commit electoral suicide.
      You had better pin your hopes on the Royal Commission into sexual abuse if you really want to drain money out of the religious school system to make it nonviable.
      Good luck with it, it will certainly be compelling viewing.

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    11. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Steven Liaros

      Great quotes, Steven Lewis, and how ironic that parts of China today echo Barton's words and times.

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    12. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, I hope you don't mind my butting into the argument here but I can't ride with the idea that parents who send their children to private schools are subsidising a state provision they do not use, means or says much.

      If the only criterion you are applying is of not using something funded by the taxpayer, but which is available to all, that argument is valid every time that same criterion is met. You can see yourself that there are many things governments fund through the taxpayers that…

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    13. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Mr Chapman I don't think I need add anything to what I put above. I don't see your "real argument" is valid; it is more of a rhetorical question with the obvious answer "no". And even if it was valid it is overridden by the fact the vast majority of Australians - aside from a few malcontents - seem satisfied with the arrangement that Christians will subsidize the secular education system, while receiving a portion of the taxes returned to assist in running their own system. Vox populi, vox Dei

      As I said, you had better pin your hopes on the Royal Commission.

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    14. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Fair enough, Mr. Lamb, though it's a funny sort of rhetorical question, wouldn't you say, when its answer is obvious?

      I still can't get a handle on the idea you repeat, that the 'vast majority of Australians .......seem satisfied with the arrangement that Christians will subsidize the secular education system', and not just because your 'seem satisfied' seems itself to rest on little more than an either/or base, in that, if people aren't jumping up about something and stating their opposition…

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    15. Julie Bartlett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Just as Sean mentioned Catholic schools, many Christian schools are far from wealthy either.

      Just checking if you are aware that private schools get drastically less government funding than state schools???

      Most parents who send their children to christian schools are far from wealthy. My parents managed to send my three siblings and I to private primary schools, and two of my siblings to private high schools despite my dad losing his job before I'd even finished primary school (and I am the…

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    16. Julie Bartlett

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Julie Bartlett

      Oops I must apologise for the several typos I missed before hitting send... being distracted by my autistic daughter who is having one of her lovely hyperactive, won't sleep, nights.

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    17. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      @Robert McDougall

      what makes you think gay children are not discriminated in public school system? especially by other children?

      create more rules to break more rules.. lets just wrap ourselves in enough tissue paper so we can not move

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    18. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to A Ahmed

      the difference between discrimination by children (children being cruel to those that are different.. sounds familiar eh?) and discrimination through legislation is vast.

      Children are cruel because they don't know better. What is the church and governments excuse?

      Does this mean that church and government are displaying a developmental disorder?

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    19. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Julie Bartlett

      I suppose the reason why you have sent your child to a private school is the hope that it would provide a more advanced education than that is available at a public school? fair enough.

      I pose the question, if the public school system had the use of the funds diverted to the private school system, would they then be able to provide a more advanced education for the children that attend them without causing great financial difficulty for their parents, as in your situation?

      Regarding the private…

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    20. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Julie Bartlett

      "Just checking if you are aware that private schools get drastically less government funding than state schools???" - As it should be, whats the difference between a private school and a public school if both are receiving public money? its silly

      Also, the idea that parents who send their kids ot private schools are far from wealthy....let me tell you something, if you can afford at all to send your kids to public school - you are doing well, very well, much better than most people I know

      Get off your upper middle class high horse and stop complaining about how hard it is to afford public school when many many others are complaining about putting food on the table

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  2. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    Interesting that many (including politicians) are not hesitant to criticize or even legislate against certain elements of "other" religions........Islam of course looms large.
    This legislation smacks of the thin edge of the wedge - picking and choosing what is or isn't discrimination.

    Interesting also that Ms Gillard would be denied a job in religious circles because she is "living in sin".

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      A good point Stephen. It seems to me that all religions are discriminatory in spite of their protestations to the contrary.

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    2. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Exactly, and what about Penny Wong?
      Neither need our sympathy but ........
      When one considers the church almost broke up NSW Parliament over the IVF debacle some years ago, and then chaplain to the Victorian Parliament now bishop Anthony Fisher warned politicians " they wouldn't fare well" if they went against church doctrine, one has to wonder who runs the darned country, privately if not publicly.

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    3. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      @Lynne

      what about a certain religious group that publically petitioned for "beheading" for those that insult the prophet?

      what about the claim "women are like meat in the butcher's shop" and are asking for it?

      would we be pulled up and prosecuted geert wilder style for publically questioning exact "unholy" quotes of "holy" texts?

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  3. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    The marriage bed and the death bed are essentially private places. The churches, and the politicians who are afraid of them, have no right to intrude into these two sanctuaries. A free people should be able to choose what they do with sex and death.

    I can't understahd why the Churches are so interested in either. It has nothing to do with them. When the Churches retreat the politicians will follow.

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Hi Giles

      I don't understand your point. Surely major life transitions such as marriage, death and birth have been core issues for most churches and religions for a very long time. Indeed, I would have thought that death has been the central concern of many religions.

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    2. Giles Pickford
      Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired, Wollongong

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Dear Gavin

      I asked the question WHY are the churches so inytrusive into acts which are private in their nature.

      You and I both agree that they are intrusive. I don't think they should be, so I ask why?

      Cheers

      Giles

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    3. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Agreed Giles. Many years ago we told the Master of St Albert's College UNE, "If you don't play the game, you don't make the rules".

      What is the basis for clergy to claim the right to control personal life matters when there is currently a Royal Commission examining Child Abuse and protection of alleged perpetrators by numerous bishops, apparently at the direction of Rome?

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    4. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Giles

      I'm sure you know these arguments backwards, but for the point of discussion I'll rehearse my understanding of them.

      Many religions seek to give meaning to the mysteries of life and therefore death, and so are closely concerned with the major life transitions. It is a short step for a religion to posit that if their stipulated processes are followed the transitions will succeed, have have merit or have value.

      The monotheist religions of the book claim to be universal in their application (perhaps laying a crucial analytic foundation for the universalist claims of science) and thus seek to prescribe processes for the major life transitions of everyone.

      While many of us find many religions' prescriptions oppressive, many of the same prescriptions were liberating at the time they were pronounced, and of course some tenants would improve our current behaviour were we able to follow them.

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Following on from Gavin Moodie: I don't see this discussion as being about whether all the religions of the world - throughout history and across the world - have resulted in nett good or harm - that is another discussion. (Although I agree with Gavin that the essential set of values, applied well, can be a good guide to living a good life).

      This one is about whether a religious organisation or institution which offers services - or money - within our wider society is entitled to apply employment rules that are not otherwise acceptable or legal.

      Membership of the organisation is different - if you want to be a Catholic, Morris Dancer or South Sydney Leagues member, you pay the fees, or somehow get inducted, and participate.

      If an employer offers a commercial service, using paid employees, then they cannot be allowed to operate like a club - the responsibility changes.

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    6. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      They may have been core issues for churches and religions, but i don't think they hold a monopoly on the concepts behind them.

      Essentially, these things have always been around, before even religion. All various religions have done is draw a veil of ceremony around them.

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    7. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      i'd say that these things happen all in their own time on their own, it's only humanities fear of the unknown that requires an explanation. I'm not religous but i have faith that it's all unfolding exactly as it should, even though i don't know the reasons for it.

      One thing I have noticed is that a lot of doctrine seems to stem from a basic "how to live a happy life" guide relevant to the time and place in which it was written. Chinese whispers and time reinforce this guide into tradition, which then becomes doctrine.

      You can understand the message while not being bogged down in the words.

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    8. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      same thing with religious commercial operations, if they are conducting themselves as a business, they should be bound by the same rules (e.g. Taxation) that any other business must conform to

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    9. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      One nevers hears of the plight of vulnerable young Afghanistan boy's, taken off the streets to entertain and serve the rich and poweful.
      No Amnesty International, or Human Rights organisations.
      I did write a few letters when I first became aware of it in 2010, when an Afghani journalist did an undercover investigation into their exploitation, but maybe due to the role of our boys over there, no-one wanted to rock any boats.
      The original site has now been removed.

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    10. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      " One nevers hears of the plight of vulnerable young Afghanistan boy's, taken off the streets to entertain and serve the rich and poweful."

      Obviously one does know about this practice of bachabaze otherwise it wouldn't be known about. It still gets media attention .

      Sadly the situation in Afghanistan is so perilous that neither their plight nor that of the young girls who get acid thrown in their faces or their schools burnt down can be safely addressed on the ground by foreigners. The Afghan government is even less willing to commit to address these issues.

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    11. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to mike williams

      With no protestions equal to that of the girls!
      I first read of it as I said, in 2010, there have been no evidence of Human Rights defenders up in arms as with heir counterparts.
      Maybe because it's more acceptable to satisfy those predisposed to little boys, irrespective of what country!

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    12. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Substantiate these claims, otherwise you're just trolling.

      The whole of Afghanistan is a tragic basket-case. If you want to make a real human rights contribution on this particular issue then go for it, otherwise I suspect the only reason that you're bringing this off-topic matter to this discussion is to imply some kind of link between (male) homosexuality and paedophilia.

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    13. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to mike williams

      Just stating the obvious: under the guise of religion...again, which is one of the many facets on the the topic, the last I read.

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    14. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      @Gavin Moodie

      "While many of us find many religions' prescriptions oppressive"

      depends on which religion we are talking about.. there are so many with such a wide range of "enlightenment" through to "backward cult" all called religion..

      problem is the word religion is such a catchall that it has lost all it meaning

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    15. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      spot on, what worked and was relevant 2000 years ago was what worked and was relevant 2000 years ago.

      I would hope as a species we have evolved a little since then.

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    16. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Robert McDougall

      This is the crux, really, and even if one is a little skeptical as to whether anyone really believed in it all those years ago, there is no way today religion can have a real claim to meaning and validity, if its foundation is the bible.

      It is just such sheer nonsense, with its silly and feeble attempts to persuade an uneducated populace that its 'wow' miracles and supernatural explanations are factually based, and the ludicrous efforts to explain the almost endless contradictions…

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  4. Ron Chinchen

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    The difficulty about this issue and for that matter any form of discrimination, is that it is hard to prove unless the person discriminating overtly admits to that behaviour. The problem is that in so many areas it is easy to suggest that other factors lead to a decision to deny, withhold, exempt, whatever a person in some way from an activity or involvement etc. I would suggest it happens all the time and often so subtly that proving it is discrimination is almost impossible.

    To cite an example…

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    1. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Your point is a valid one, Ron.

      However, what seems to be at issue here is that religious organisations are not even interested in finding reasons that are aligned with secular moral principles.

      They maintain that is their right to use explicitly categories such as marital status, sexuality and the like in the making of employment decisions. There would be little difficulty in "proving" an act of discrimination on these grounds if these are the stated reasons.

      Now certainly, if these organisations are compelled to adhere to the same legislation as other employers, then the difficulty in establishing the case does present itself - but this difficulty remains the same with all employers and not just those who currently seek exemption.

      The difference is that those denied employment have a legal avenue to pursue which would be denied to them by the current proposal.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      A good example Ron among many others.

      Consider the prevailing policies in Rugby League for selecting the NSW State of Origin team. There appears to be an AngloCeltic pre-requisite for selection, that is independent of current form, ability or fitness, apparently to exclude Aboriginal players.

      This policy is particularly noticeable in the last SEVEN SUCCESSIVE SERIES LOSSES to Queensland, but has been current for many years excluding such players as Nathan Blacklock (>20 tries in each of…

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    3. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      I like your example, Jack.

      It suggests that when you apply irerlevant categories to your selection criteria - whether explicitly or not - the result can be disastrous.

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    4. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      What I'm trying to bring to this issue is the fact that discrimination applies everywhere, not just in religious organisations and not just about sex. That's not to suggest that those issues arent important, they are. But if we are going to discuss discrimination, the issue is far broader and far more insidious and endemic than just religious or sex discrimination, and its very hard to prove it with practised discriminators.

      An example was in an area of my former employment. A certain individual…

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    5. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Ron

      Unfortunately I know only too well what you have described. Wrecked my health in such an unwinnable situation. Discrimination is practised by many. However, only Religion is given carte blanche endorsement. Other employers have to use covert methods.

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    6. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack, you can't be serious?

      First of all, Hazem el Mazri is not aboriginal, so it was a pretty bad example. I am a lifelong bulldogs supporter, and I know that, as good as he was, he was not suitable to be a state of origin winger, even though he did actually play one game.

      And you might want to take a look at the ethnicity of the recent NSW team to see just how many were 'AngloCeltic' and how many weren't, then tell us all which ones of the 'AngloCeltic' players should have been replaced by better aboriginal players.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Ron, good points all.

      At the risk of being flippant, as a professional short person, I have done a little research into 'heightism' [that glorious old Goodies episode about 'Apart-height' notwithstanding!]. The evidence is actually quite disturbing of all the ways taller people are advantaged over shorter ones and just how widespread the effect turns out to be. It's very similar, and partly crosses-over with, similar evidence about more attractive people being favoursed.

      It's not an obvious, exciting or particularly serious issue, and I'm not really suggesting that it be taken too seriously, but if you were simply to do an objective measurement (as far as that might be possible in reality) of the various bases for discrimination and their impact on practical outcomes, I suspect there are a few along these lines that are among the most powerful.

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    8. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I am serious, very serious. Fair comment, Hazem el Mazri is Muslim rather than Aboriginal or AngloCeltic. However, the list is long & extends back for about 20 years.

      Moreover, today's release of the All Stars teams shows that the NRL All Stars contain a large number of NZ & Islanders in the NRL team. This may or may not be OK. Certainly it results from inadequate funding for country Rugby League. But this thread is not the place to discuss mismanagement & discrimination in Rugby League.

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    9. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      "Hazem el Mazri is Muslim rather than Aboriginal or AngloCeltic."

      Oh? I thought he was a Lebanese-Australian.

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    10. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      people discriminate daily. I think the issue here is whether legislation should enable a section of the community to discriminate against another section of the community, where the values of the society as a whole show that that type of discrimination is not considered to be acceptable.

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    11. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Just last night I was asked to sign a petition to the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, in relation to teacher who had decided to have a baby and fired because she was unmarried.
      If a Catholic school, it does come under the bill to discriminate, no question there.

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  5. Geoff Henderson

    Graduate

    It's just a bit strange to me that just days after a Royal Commission into Institutionally based child sexual abuse is announced these same institutions right to another form of abuse based on sexual preference is confirmed.

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    1. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Geoff Henderson

      It was only this morning listening to ABC Radio National, when condemnation was again pointed at them, and then this bill of rights to discriminate, that it crossed my mind, it's a sweetener.
      The church is going to be dragged through the mud, and they won't take it laying down in more ways than one and one way of getting their own back and show their authority.
      It was interesting to read the Jewish community had no opinion, and Anglicare were not going to be divisive.

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  6. Michael Clarke

    Managing Director at Oceana Consulting PL

    It strikes me that there is a simple approach to the application of the principles of non-discrimination to faith-based activities that should offend no one.

    Where a faith-based activity of whatever type (be it in health or education or welfare or anywhere else) is fully and exclusively funded by the faith-based organisation itself, the organisation is entitled to determine absolutely who it will employ or serve and who it will not.

    However, where ever any faith-based activity, irrespective of type, is in receipt of any public funding or publicly-funded benefit (like a tax concession/deduction or a grant or a subsidy etc), the faith-based organisation must be required to subject itself absolutely to the full range of legislation that applies to all other organisations offering similar services and activities, including anti-discrimination legislation.

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Michael Clarke

      Do you believe that an ordinary private company should be able to discriminate in employment or in its provision of services if it is fully and exclusively funded by itself?

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    2. David Lamond

      Adjunct Professor of HRM & International Business at Victoria University

      In reply to Michael Clarke

      Gavin makes a key point here Michael, I think. To your idea that "the organisation is entitled to determine absolutely who it will employ or serve and who it will not" needs to be added "within the country's relevant legal framework" (or at least words to that effect).

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    3. Michael Clarke

      Managing Director at Oceana Consulting PL

      In reply to David Lamond

      I note and fully agree with the point David and Gavin make. The right of a fully self-funding faith-based body to determine its own employment and/or service delivery policies should be within the context of that body having to comply with 'the country's relevant legal framework'.

      While my preferred position is that no person or organisation should be able to claim any exemption from the application of the anti-discrimination legislation, I accept that political compromises will occur. I was, in my original post, simply outlining what I see as the maximum concession that could be made to the ACL without completely betraying the principles of non-discrimination.

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    4. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Clarke

      Geoff, logically, your argument would extend to the removal of the "are you of aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent?" phrase from any publicly funded body's application forms.

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    5. June Sellers

      Educator

      In reply to Michael Clarke

      Michael - It strikes me that there is a simple approach to the application of the principles of non-discrimination to faith-based activities that should offend no one.

      Where a faith-based activity of whatever type (be it in health or education or welfare or anywhere else) is fully and exclusively funded by the faith-based organisation itself, the organisation is entitled to determine absolutely who it will employ or serve and who it will not.

      It offends me - because even if the establishment…

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    6. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      a fully funded private company does not normally also enjoy tax free status and an ordinary private company would be bound by the same laws as everyone else. Which in this case, society as a whole has found such discrimination to be unacceptable. If a company refused to emply young women on the grounds that they may go off and have children sometime, you could be reasonably assured that the PR backlash what prove a major impediment to their profitability.

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    7. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      @Gavin

      a private organization should be able to choose who they employ.. why not?

      private organisation has to survive and why should they employ someone if they do not wish to?

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  7. Stephen Ralph

    carer

    I can imagine in a spooky kind of space/time continuum JG saying to Torquemada - "dont worry, we'll legislate our way around this"......................

    And to paraphrase Groucho Marx - "I wouldnt want to join a religion that would have me as a member anyway."

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  8. Baron Pike

    logged in via Facebook

    Religion is discriminatory by its very nature. I suppose you can deter or minimize some of it by passing laws, but you'd have to get rid of the whole damned mess to make it in any sense objectively fair to all of us.

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    1. Richard Dout

      Citizen

      In reply to Baron Pike

      Tend to agree.

      It worked when the world was full of discrimination, and men ruled. But now that we are evolving into a more balanced society, it is simply one of the last bastions of misogyny, homophobia and child abuse.

      It just has to go. If ANY other group in the world behaved the way they do, it would be shutdown and all it's members jailed.

      All it would take, is 2 generations to not be influenced by it, and it would be relegated to the history books where it belongs, and remembers as one of the worst morally corrupt forces in the history of man.

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    2. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Richard Dout

      Some people need religion, perhaps they are not comfortable in a direct one to one relationship with the universe (God) and need an intermediary.

      I suspect that if one were to work their way back through the centuries of revision and embellishment they would all come down to two tennants "know thyself" and "all is one".

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  9. Tim Keegan

    Community Worker

    No public money for the bedroom police.

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  10. Dianna Arthur
    Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Environmentalist

    I am happy that the Australian Christian lobby are pleased at this latest 'special' treatment.

    Now, the ACL needs to extend the same 'right' (in no particular order) to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, Sikhs, Rastafarians, Scientologists, Aboriginal Dreamtime, Native Americans, Mayans, Africans (various), Vodoun, Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, Taoism, Roma, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Confucianism, Baha'i and no doubt many more that people regard as every bit as 'special' as Christianity.

    A shame that similar acknowledgement cannot be given to lesbians, homosexuals, trans-sexual, transvestites, single parents, de-facto couples and any other people who unwittingly have 'sinned' in the eyes of some religion or other.

    Christianity has only been around for 2000+ years, and is, therefore, still in its adolescence - compared to most of the above mentioned religions. Maybe, one day, it will grow up.

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    1. Richard Dout

      Citizen

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Sorry Dianna, but they are all as bad as each other. We should be supporting none of them. We live in an era where were should transcend primitive beliefs. Let's not compare it to single parents, homosexuals etc. They are rational arguments for normal behaviors. Religion is not.

      See past the little comfort it brings for people dealing with their insecurities about death, and to what it really does. Cause wars, provides shelter for child rapists, and lets men on golden thrones profess the sadness of poverty. It is the root of all discrimination.

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Richard Dout

      Very good comment, Richard Dout.

      All of these 'isms' are as bad as each other, a kind of poultice that we apply to free ourselves of taking real responsibility for what we do and are.

      We need to free ourselves of them in order to move forward morally and ethically.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Diana, I'd be delighted if they also extended some tolerance and respect to scientists, agnostics and other folf of a primarily 'rational' inclination...

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix

      " if they also extended some tolerance and respect to scientists, agnostics and other folf of a primarily 'rational' inclination..."

      I just forget myself when I am writing...

      Of course, you are right......

      ..... that's never gonna happen is it?

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    5. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Richard Dout

      It does all these things as organisations, but i would hesitate to lump the genuine who follow the message, not the words with those that mouth the words but miss the message.

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    6. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      The problem is "which message?" - all religious traditions have been turned to "genuinely" support and negate both sides of almost any major social issue you'd care to name.

      Sincerity is not a substitute for rationality.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Oh, I don't know, we've done a pretty fair job of bloodying their nose since the Renaissance - just because they're kicking back a bit at th emoment doesn't mean that we can't still win the battle (and, all bad jokes aside, it really has been a battle - I've never yet seen any religious organisation give a milimetre of ground without being forced to, so we'll jus thave to soldier on...)

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    8. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to mike williams

      i was trying to draw a distinction between the CWA grandmothers who gently embody the precepts of compassion and love vs the heirarchy who are about politics and power.

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    9. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Well having lived across the road from a CWA hall and mingled with the "CWA grandmothers" at church functions for a decade, I would also take them as a great example of malicious small-town gossipers who can also do a great deal of harm.

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    10. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to mike williams

      LOL! Any group is going to involve gossip, but in small towns, the protagonists are more likely to know each other. This is not the sole province of CWA.

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    11. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      True, that's why I believed it was a good call to have Ethics as part of the Curriculum in schools, I'm not sure what happened there, if it's in or out.
      There was a bit of a kerfuffle.

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    12. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne Newington

      Yes, and it should be entirely separate from religion and any idea of some 'God', so that its focus is solely on mankind.

      I shudder at the 'motivation' of believers who can blow others to death or die as martyrs for some 'cause' while killing others, on the promise of a 1000 virgins in eternity. It's not just that's it's such mumbo-jumbo, it stops us from looking more honestly at ourselves and our nature, our core, as it were. If we are to truly move forward, and I'd say we have slightly in terms of racism and the equality of the sexes, we just have to take on board the reality or realities of us as a being.

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    13. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to mike williams

      "I would also take them as a great example of malicious small-town gossipers who can also do a great deal of harm."

      Isn't that why they are in the Cranky Women's Association?

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  11. David Howard

    Home Duties

    I come down on the other side of the argument.

    Religious teachings are not able to be argued rationally, they are a belief. Adhering to that belief is what makes the religion. What if a religion teaches sex before marriage is wrong? Should they be required to employ a person who is an advocate of pre-marital sex?

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Howard

      What's an 'advocate' of pre-marital sex though? If walking around at work loudly insisting to everyone they should have sex before marriage is incompatible with your job description, then that's one thing. (Frankly that could get you fired from most workplaces, not just faith-based ones). But that's a very different matter from refusing to hire someone not because of what they do in the workplace but because they happen to be having sex outside of marriage.

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    2. David Hamer

      student

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Are you failing to account for the fact that in many religious roles preaching is required?

      Having someone proclaim ‘no sex before marriage’ whilst having such sex themselves would epitomise hypocrisy; such hypocrisy would undermine the validity of the church and its teachings.

      Discrimination enables the church to preserve the integrity of their beliefs, regardless of whether these beliefs are right or wrong.

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Hamer

      That might apply to religious orders, but when we're talking about ordinary forms of employment, what preaching is required by, say, a surgeon, nursing home attendant, maths teacher or charity receptionist? All of these roles exist within church-run organisations, and it's hard to see how a person's sexuality would interfere with their being able to do their jobs.

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    4. David Hamer

      student

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      I agree that for all of those examples (and many more) that discrimination is unacceptable. But I can also see that in many cases discrimination is required to protect the validity of the religious organisation.

      Perhaps the legislature could contain a phrase along these lines:
      A religious organisation is free to discriminate for a position which requires the expression of the organisations beliefs.

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    5. Russell Warman

      Masters Candidate

      In reply to David Howard

      The basis of employment should be whether you are able to do the job required and are you the best for it. If for example you personally think premarital sex is fine, but the job requires you to caution against it, or simply not advocate for it, and you are willing to do this, then there should be no problems. We all get confronted with tasks in our work that do not align neatly with our personal beliefs, values etc.
      The employer should be asking; are you capable and willing to do the job? Not; do you or are you willing to hold my beliefs and values?

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    6. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Russell Warman

      "The basis of employment should be whether you are able to do the job required and are you the best for it"
      "The employer should be asking; are you capable and willing to do the job? Not; do you or are you willing to hold my beliefs and values?"
      The last is a set of two mutually exclusive statements. If the job requires delivering services according to a certain system of values (whether religious or otherwise), then that's the job.

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "If the job requires delivering services according to a certain system of values (whether religious or otherwise), then that's the job."

      What do you mean by "delivering services according to a certain system of values"?

      If a LGBT person lives in a monogamous relationship with a partner, but is scrupulously honest and kind, honours their parents, pays their taxes, contributes voluntary work to the poor, gives overseas aid, and helps old ladies across the road, are they less worthy than another person in a monogamous heterosexual relationship who has conned their parents out of their home and despises gay people?

      It seems to me that picking and choosing which bits of the "certain system of values" merit discrimination is what lies at the very heart of this issue.

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    8. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "If a LGBT person lives in a monogamous relationship with a partner, but is scrupulously honest and kind, honours their parents, pays their taxes, contributes voluntary work to the poor, gives overseas aid, and helps old ladies across the road, are they less worthy than another person in a monogamous heterosexual relationship who has conned their parents out of their home and despises gay people?"

      Possibly, although of course it is not for the Christian to judge such matters. The role of the Christian is to try and orientate their life as best they can to the guidelines laid out in the New Testament - which means paying attention to both Christ and Paul.
      Christ was a bit of show pony, it was Paul who did most of the heavy lifting in my opinion.
      JC didn't like to get his hands dirty and preferred dealing in the big pictures, whereas Paul was very much the tactician.
      In the end it is salvation by faith alone.

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    9. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to David Hamer

      David, you said "such hypocrisy would undermine the validity of the church and its teachings". The church is doing all it can to undermine its validity and relevance all by itself: it does not need any help from outside.

      Discrimination enables the church to preserve the right for its priests to practice pædophilia, regardless of whether these actions are right or wrong. Such hypocrisy does undermine the validity of the church and its teachings.

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      "In the end it is salvation by faith alone."

      Then, Sean Lamb, should "faith" be the only prerequisite for an employee of a Christian organisation to be employed?

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    11. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      At the risk of being pedantic, an important distinction is being lost here, through misquotation. What the bible (actually, the apostle Paul) said was that Christians are saved by grace (which comes from their god), not by faith (which comes from the victim): faith is just the lubricant which facilitates grace's operation.

      Ephesians 2:8-9

      New International Version (NIV)

      8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

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    12. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      I don't think Christ needs to have faith in himself, but I might be wrong. Lets not argue in front of the children anyway.
      "Then, Sean Lamb, should "faith" be the only prerequisite for an employee of a Christian organisation to be employed?"
      Since in this sublunar world of sin generally the main objectives of a Christian organisation is not assisting people to salvation, I will leave that question to the organisations themselves to decide.

      I was just trying to point out why in the eyes of God he might see a believer as more socially useful in the long term than any non-believer, no matter how replete in good works.

      People think rebuilding temples in three days is a piece of cake, snap your fingers and its done. I think you find that there is a lot of pre-planning put in and a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.

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    13. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to David Howard

      what if the no sex before marraige was intended to limit the spread of STD's before the advent of modern medicine?

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    14. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to David Hamer

      Or is it an indication of the insecurity of the validity of the religious organisation?

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    15. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Dania Ng

      i doubt that you would get a gay buddhist applying for a catholic pastor position

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    16. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      lol, or perhaps JC knew that his teachings were always going to be perverted. I don't know that there are many books in the bible actually written by JC.

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    17. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      how about having faith that it is all unfolding as it should, that we are who we are by "gods" design and when we stop shouting about who has the best imaginary friend and who that imaginary friend likes or doesnt like, we may actually be able to hear "god" say "finally, i can get a word in"

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    18. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Hamer

      "A religious organisation is free to discriminate for a position which requires the expression of the organisations beliefs."

      Which is essentially saying a corporation is the same as a human.

      The doctrine and management of the Catholic Church discriminates in many areas where (the mass* of) individual Catholics do not, and vice versa. Ditto for other churches (such as the Anglicans) but usually with less of a centralised dichotomy.

      *no pun intended

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    19. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Lol, although that would be a great interview panel to be on.

      Btw, I used to work with a Robert McDougall in WA. Ever worked in a policy team?

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    20. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, then there is the alternative view that Paul was the first heretic who carved out a career for himself following his Damascus epiphany.

      The solution remains, religious organisations should remain within the laws of the land for every reason, especially when they receive largesse from the state.

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    21. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      i don't think God would discriminate between believer and non believer, thats just a distinction we make.

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    22. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      There would go the Confessional bit, although these day's the confessor would be looking for a confesser to confess to himself.
      The expectations of the laity are not the same as the hierarchy so we're told on these issues.

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    23. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to David Hamer

      You couldn't get any closer to that, than what is already in the guidlines of Religious Discrimination under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act : A religious body is also permitted to do 'other things ", that conforms to with it's religious doctrine, or are necessary to avoid injuring the religious feelings of members of it's faith.

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    24. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to mike williams

      Mike

      "The doctrine and management of the Catholic Church discriminates in many areas where (the mass* of) individual Catholics do not, and vice versa. Ditto for other churches (such as the Anglicans) but usually with less of a centralised dichotomy."

      I'd say that if you could show that this disconnect between the Church and its followers was sufficiently large, the Court might well reject the Church's claim to be exempt.

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  12. Colin Stokes

    Health Educator

    The provision of our taxes via government funding to churches that will not employ some of the Australians that paid for the service being provided is repugnant. The government may well agree that churches can employ as they wish, but government funding should, nay must, be reliant on an equal employment policy.

    At the other end of this issue I have long heard stories from my own GLBTI clients that services are often refused on the basis of 'lifestyle' and belief. Any organisation found to be doing this should be de-funded.

    The churches are making moral hay on our dime.

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Colin Stokes

      That's fine, and I wholeheartedly agree with it. Your dime probably doesn't make much difference since it has been consistently shown that the more religious a community is the more funding it puts towards services anyway. In a free society we should be able to direct our contributions (such as donations) to whomever we like, which is what happens at the moment. I think that's the best solution, rather than carte blanche legislating that will force even self-funded organisations to employ those whose perspectives and values they find reprehensible. But I guess this is not really the aim of these activists, is it now?

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Ms Ng says "But I guess this is not really the aim of these activists, is it now?"

      Which "activists", Ms Ng?

      Are you referring to the author - an academic philosopher? Most readers here would see him as a skilled and insightful commentator - not an "activist".

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    3. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "the more religious a community is the more funding it puts towards services"

      Atheism in Scandenavia runs at between 85% and 60% of the populations of those countries. They also happen to be the ones with the largest investment in social services so I am not sure how you can suggest taht being more religious equates to more funding for services.

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    4. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Grendelus, Scandinavia also jails preachers, and has some of the highest taxes in the world. Obviously you are unaware of Robert Putnam's seminal work on social capital and its sources. I need to do a search on literature relevant to Australia, which I seem to remember that there is some, but meanwhile have a look at this article: http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/6577 Should be comparative, since Australia and the US share many of the relevant attributes.
      Contrary to some arguments raised here, if we do away with this situation, services are still needed to be funded. So whose money and time resources will we be using instead?.

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    5. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania, other than Åke Green (who was eventually acquitted) do you have other examples?

      The misuse of a law, or the creation of a bad law does not alter the statistics I presented.

      I am familiar with the link between faith and charitable giving - and I think that in general it is a very good thing. However, the charitable gift to a religious organisation has at times proven to be problematic. Some organisation tie charity to proselytization - this is entirely their right but can mean a form…

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    6. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "Obviously you are unaware of Robert Putnam's seminal work on social capital and its sources"

      Why would that be at all obvious? Perhaps I think that Putnam's contribution, while significant and valuable is not a) the sole work in the field; b) not entirely authoritative; and c) focussed on the United States to the extent that studies by other scholars in the field have not found similar social changes in other countries.

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    7. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      " Putnam's contribution, while significant and valuable is not a) the sole work in the field; b) not entirely authoritative; and c) focussed on the United States to the extent that studies by other scholars in the field have not found similar social changes in other countries"
      Lol, please inform yourself before you make such silly statements, and as I advised you elsewhere, don't rely on a cursory look at wikipedia to get your facts. Putnam's seminal work was done as a result of community studies in Italy where, if you know, religion is crucial to community life. Making Democracy Work (1993) is what you need to read, though obviously his more recent works are also relevant.

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    8. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania,

      You are equating "social capital" with "religious institutions" in your use of Putnam - Putnam himself does not do that.

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    9. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "The best single migration-based positive determinant of
      social capital is the fraction of the population that is of Scandinavian descent"

      LOL

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    10. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      And also: "Another fact is that if you rank Americans today by their level of social capital or social trust or social connectedness, and you rank the countries from which their ancestors come, even as long ago as two or three generations, those two rankings are perfectly correlated, even though the connection between those two streams is on average two or three generations old."

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    11. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Sure, here's another example: http://ihrg.org/human-right-in-norway/
      It is a bit more than 'charity' that we're discussing here, your argument is simplistic in the extreme. It is about whether an entirely secular society can do better than a society where religious diversity is tolerated. It cannot - history has demonstrated this. I can only quote Thorstein Veblen, cited in the paper I linked to in my previous posting: "residue of the religious life — the sense of communion with the environment…

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    12. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Sorry, I don't understand your last two posts. In any event, I don't think I can show you anything you don't know already, so no use me trying to pester you with any evidence, is there? Bye, I don't have any more time to spend on you, sorry.

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    13. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Interesting - I was quoting Putnam and wondered if you might recognise both the quote and the irony of your recent position on Scandinavia. You see, Putnam identified Scandinavian countries as having the highest level of social capital and also found that the social engagement of scandanavian communities continued when they emigrated, particularly to the United States. He found those communities in the US with the highest social capital were scandanavian in origin even if several generations removed from their place of origin.

      " no use me trying to pester you with any evidence"

      Well, two single anecdotes of preachers being arrested is hardly evidence Dania - I bet there are countries with far worse records of arresting preachers.

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    14. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      No references so that I can check the context of the quotes (I would be surprised if they are not out of context because I am fairly familiar with Putnam's work). And then this: "Well, two single anecdotes of preachers being arrested is hardly evidence Dania - I bet there are countries with far worse records of arresting preachers". So the well practiced trick here is to continuously up the ante, always get the other side to explain and to give you more and more evidence. You have demonstrated this…

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    15. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania - if I need to explain that two anecdotes don't represent evidence that Scandanavian countries are routinely oppressing preachers then I am not sure that you has a solid grasp of what might constitute evidence of systematic oppression.

      As for my quote - you might try placing inverted commas around blocks of text then googling - this generally takes you right to any instance of a direct quote.

      I assumed you would not require spoon feeding of references since you seemed to represent yourself…

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    16. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Oh, and a screed of ranty articles from the UK murdoch press is not in any way convincing.

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    17. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Lol, I can't resist this. Do you know why the best predictor (in the US) is the Scandinavian migrants? Because they have suffered religious persecution back home, and that's why they migrated to America. Let me repeat that word (you seem not to like that much): religion. Let me say it in another way: on average, communities that are more religious tend to also generate more social capital. Do you actually know what the main component of social capital is? Trust/reciprocity. Let me repeat it: trust/reciprocity…

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    18. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "Lol, I can't resist this. Do you know why the best predictor (in the US) is the Scandinavian migrants? Because they have suffered religious persecution back home, and that's why they migrated to America."

      Really? Please back that up - quite a claim. Oh I don't doubt there were some but the evidence says that economics was the single outstanding driver of migration to the US from Scandanavia.

      "Faith communities in which people worship together are arguably the single most important repository…

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    19. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dania Ng

      'Where do you think you would normally find higher levels of trust and reciprocity, in a congregation of people who share and practice a religion together, or, say, at the local gay club or bath house? '

      Yes, gay folk only interact at gay clubs and 'bath houses' (whatever they are??).

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    20. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Grendelus. Economic factors was a push factor for migration to the Americas and to elsewhere, and you quote some selected works which focus on this dimension. I can do a search on Ebscohost and I am sure I can build a reference list that focuses on religious persecution of non-state mandated faiths in Sweden (or Lilliput, for that matter). Since your entire motivation here seems to be to discredit absolutely everything I say, it would not make any difference what I argue or produce as evidence. No…

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    21. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Mark Amey

      Oh, g'day Crocamey, mate - fancy finding you snapping here :). FYI, yes gay clubs are the usual congregation for homosexuals. Just read any gay literature, the gay club is the central focus of your local gay community. Don't know about bathhouses? I believe you're not far from Sydney, here's a directory: http://sydney.gaycities.com/bathhouses/ I think you'd find the experience most illuminating if you were seeking to see how gay social capital is being generated. Happy visiting!

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    22. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dear Dania

      I have long admired your capacity to expose the cant that is sometimes employed by those whose hatred exceeds their brainpower. However, you have painted yourself into a very awkward corner on this one.

      Firstly, you took on Patrick, with the most extraordinary claims that you weren't able to sustain. Typically politely and astutely, he dropped out of the conversation rather than humiliate you as some others here have tried to do.

      Secondly, your imputation that the only contribution…

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    23. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania, i would have issue with the claim that a secular society cannot be as charitable as a religious society. it would entirely come down to how much encouragement either society would give to enabling acts of charity. I would suspect that if a religious or secular society equally supports charitable actions then both would be as charitable as each other.

      Religion does not hold a monopoly on this, and when looking over history, it could be argued that religion has been the foundation of many atrocities committed in gods name.

      I would have more faith (lol) in the charitable nature of religion if say, the Catholic Church distributed it's billions if not trillions amongst the poor and needy. I thought the basic tenants of the clergy were "chastity, poverty and obedience". Bit hard to be focussed on the kingdom of god if your too busy counting and protecting your coins and material wealth

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    24. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Mark Amey

      If referring to religious congregations of women, have no illusions, they can be cathouses!
      The men are more subdued.

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    25. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      'The men are more subdued.'
      Unless they're in a bathhouse, evidently!

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    26. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dania Ng

      'I believe you're not far from Sydney'

      How, stalking on the internet?

      'Just read any gay literature, the gay club is the central focus of your local gay community. Don't know about bathhouses?' No, I don't, none of my gay friends frequent them. I know that you have lots of photos of gay naked men on your website, but, this may surprise you, most gay folk don't behave like that. Perhaps you've been immersed in gay porn for too long!

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    27. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Mark Amey

      Dania - where you you think you would find "higher levels of trust and reciprocity", in a religious congregation that included gay worshippers, or in a heterosexual brothel?

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    28. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Mark Amey

      Well Mark, your sneering response doesn't surprise - as usual, you exaggerate and de-contextualise things. The photos on my website (two, if I remember correctly) are of naked homosexuals marching in gay 'pride parades', in front of children. They are a part of a piece I wrote. That may be porn to you, but to me it indicates what gay 'culture' is about. If you are going to lie, then do it more convincingly - people can actually check what's on my site (truth2be.net), and so you continue to expose…

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    29. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sorry Sue, I can't quite understand what you're asking, maybe because it is such a silly and shallow question. I think you'd find vastly more social capital in the congregation. A heterosexual brothel is, like the homosexuals' bars and other such venues negatively affecting the generation of social (and other) capital, in my view. However, your question is disingenuous, and not really befitting of you, in my view. It misses the crucial underpinning point. Whereas religions have been founded by heterosexual…

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    30. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Hi Michael. Thank you for this, I find it a very insightful posting, not least because you have managed to read my temperament so well. I am glad that you are able to see beyond the sometimes knee-jerk reaction I succumb to when I get provoked, to understand my motivation. You are right, I should take a deep breath before responding. I guess it comes down to a deep hatred of injustice, something which I have witnessed and experienced on a personal level in a society where the very essence of humanity…

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    31. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Robert McDougall

      Robert. Secular societies are not, on the whole, as charitable as religious societies. I am not making this up, the evidence is clear. Those that are, as some have pointed to here, are so because of their historical development which invariably included religious structures laying the basis of their normative or value base as a society. But I don't think this discussion is about charity as such, this is a sidetrack we have found ourselves on. We are actually at this point of discussion because the…

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    32. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      " I can do a search on Ebscohost and I am sure I can build a reference list that focuses on religious persecution of non-state mandated faiths in Sweden (or Lilliput, for that matter). "

      Please do so, but persecution is not sufficient. Itis your claim thwt the main driver of migration was religious persecution so you would need to identify evidence thwt supports your hypothesis.

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  13. Michael Shand
    Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Software Tester

    Great Article, always very impressed by Patrick's articles.

    So Religious groups want to be able to descriminate based on their own prejudice huh? is there any other group where such a claim would be taken seriously?

    What if a church takes offensive at those dirty coloured folk? is that Okay?

    It seems the our government has already said that churches can descriminate against those immoral homosexuals, why not coloured folks? why not women as well?

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    1. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Michael Shand

      @Michael,

      you make up some story about color folk and make out as if it is true? you sir are a bigot.. pushing your own irrational thought as if it is true.. stick to the facts

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    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to A Ahmed

      haha, thanks for the response.

      this is the question I was highlighting - its okay to descriminate against LGBT people yeah? thats fine

      Why is it okay to descriminate against gays but not okay to descriminate against women or coloured folk?

      What if your religion (And there are many) thinks blacks are less than whites, by IQ, by moral standards, etc - does that make it okay?

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    3. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Shand

      News Flash: Catholic Church does not allow women in the priesthood! Wow, who'da thunk a church could discriminate against half its congregation like that? Women are somehow inferior when it comes to religiosity, apparently.

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    4. Terry Mills

      lawyer retired

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Actually, Michael, the proposed legislation does allow for a church or religious teaching institution to discriminate against women. The proposed S.33 seems to allow a religious employer to deny employment on the basis of pregnancy or 'potential' pregnancy.The rationale appears to be that religious institutions should not be required to employ mothers or 'potential' mothers who may be unmarried.................shock, horror

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    5. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Hang on Doug; there is a long history of the Sydney Arch Diocese of the Anglican Church discriminating against women priests, female bishops as well as GLBT persons.

      Why should the Roman church get all the credit for perpetuating ideas from the mid-18th century that women are really only possessions of their male overlords?

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    6. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Jack, I did not mean to suggest the Roman church is on its own, so thanks for picking it up. As far as I can tell as an outsider, most of the Abrahamic religions regard women as less than equal players. The largest Abrahamic religions are, in chronological order of founding, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahá'í Faith. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions).

      I know nothing of Bahá'í, so cannot comment.

      Protestant Christian churches tend to be more liberal than the Romans in this…

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    7. Michael Bailes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      It happens now
      First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs in Mississippi has come under fire for its refusal to marry a black couple.
      http://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2012/07/black-wedding-banned-by-ms-baptist-church.html
      We seem to be going a diffent way to the EU and USA
      Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices
      Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy…

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    8. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael - it's off topic but the thread on the ASIC coal hoax has closed so I'm responding to your query here.

      I think you have completely misunderstood me when I seaid special pleading from either direction was inappropriate.

      My point precisely WAS that there are nuances and shades of grey but this is up to the court (should it come to that) to determine. I would have hoped my sentence:

      "If, as alleged, he broke the law then he should be given his chance in court to defend himself and…

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  14. Shaun King

    Designer

    I'm perplexed as to where the Christian religion actually says homosexuality is sinful.

    It's certainly not in the New Testament. If it's in the old Testament, then the christians are just picking and choosing, as they ignore what they choose (eye for an eye, for example).

    Can someone point me to the scriptures where sex before marriage, homosexuality, drug, alcohol and tobacco use are considered sinful?

    Or are these sinful laws just made up by the roman church based on their own discriminatory attitudes. And if so, there's no way we should, as a nation, put up with such crap.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Shaun King

      I believe Romans 1:26-27 is the main NT scriptural authority that's appealed to by opponents of homosexuality ("Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."). As is often the case, it's Paul rather than Jesus that says the problematic stuff.

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    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Shaun King

      Dude, its religion - they just make it up and justify it after the fact

      It is the art of elevating your own private prejudice to the state of devine revelation/commandment

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    3. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Apologies Patrick, I noticed Shaun's post too late. Would delete if I could.

      Guess I just have a knee-jerk reaction to real or perceived preaching. Am very disappointed by Federal Government's endorsement of discrimination by religions. Am further disappointed that a change of government will further entrench this infringement on non-Christians or even Christians who happen to be LGBTI or de facto or others who are somehow not adhering to a religion of which they have no knowledge. In fact, I would posit that the ACL is becoming increasingly Kafkaesque - casting the 'sin' stone at people who are simply living their lives.

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    4. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Well, Patrick. ACL represents the views of many people. Are you 'pretty disturbed' that it speaks for them? Or are you 'pretty disturbed' that such people exist?

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    5. Rod Govers

      Retired IT administrator

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "ACL represents the views of many people."

      I would like to see evidence of that claim. My Christian relatives and friends are embarrassed by the ACL.

      It's nothing more than a noisy, fundamentalist group who seem to be narrowly focused on homosexuality rather than all-things Christian. Can you point me to any evidence that shows their lobbying on behalf of, say, disadvantaged members of society?

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    6. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Rod Govers

      Well, I would like to see evidence of your claim first. The mere fact that ACL exists and is funded to the extend that it can carry so much lobbying pressure means that it represents the views of many people. Now, you may not like this, but there the fact stands in spite of your bigotry. Now where is the evidence for the claims you're making?

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    7. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      I Corinthians 6:9; 10 is another one. As you said, it is not God or Jesus saying this, but an apostle writing to his followers. Some believe Paul was divinely inspired; some think he was just this power-crazy guy making a living out of being a religious fundamentalist.

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    8. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Shaun King

      Shaun King - to me, this is the source of the hypocrisy.

      Both old and new testaments contain a huge body of rules for living - some practical, some relating to interacting with others.

      Depending on which bits you want to choose, one could be excluded as "sinful" for not paying taxes, for fornication, for not respecting our parents, for having hubris, for maltreating children - choose your sin.

      Why limit the ban to sexual orientation? Either only employ people who stick to all the rules (having decided which rules), or not.

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    9. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Shaun King

      Shaun, I agree that the evidence of biblical proscription of same-sex sex is non-existent. But remember, Christianity has always been about much more than the words in the New Testament. Unlike, for example, Islam's Koran, the NT was not the direct word of God, but merely the words of those 'touched by God'. And that 'touch' is handed down from Jesus Christ to the Apostles to the bishops to the clergy, and finally to the faithful. Sodomy had long been condemned before Jesus Christ came along. The Roman Catholic Church simply spun extant pagan Roman condemnation into theology dressed up to look like it was worn by Jesus Christ and God himself.

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    10. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      "If being a Christian.....
      I don't know how many Christians have been helped by non-Christian counsellors.
      Getting tangled up with spirituality when one has been abused by the 'Establishment", is more damaging to many, than not.

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    11. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yeah, and while you're at it, exclude Retired English Teachers from debating with learned Professors.

      Hypocrisy comes in many guises, doesn't it?

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  15. Terry Goulden

    Retired

    In the 1970s when Anti-discrimination legislation was being introduced into NSW there was very little discussion about the exemptions offered to Christian churches in the hope that they would temper their opposition.
    Now there is not only vehement opposition to exemptions but the media is giving quite high visibility to these objections. This shows how the Christian Churches have lowered themselves in the eyes of the community over the thirty odd years.
    What the Christian Lobby fails to understand is that all it's lobbying behaviour is ultimately working against its very own aims. Each time they denigrate citizens who don't conform to their belief system they lose respect from the community and no doubt lose some adherents.

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  16. Seán McNally

    Market and Social Researcher at eris strategy

    In addition to the direct public funding issue is that religious organisations also have tax benefits which is indirect public funding for thier activities.

    Also, many of the religions compete with non-religious organisations in the broader market place. In these commercial contexts it would not be equitable to force one group to play by one set of rules and another by other rules.

    In short the law should be blind.

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  17. Ron Spielman

    logged in via Facebook

    As a new contributor to "The Conversation", I must commend the civil tone of this discussion - in contrast to so many others elsewhere on the Web.

    In regard to this this vexed topic, I wonder - say - if the post of Australian Ambassador to the USA became vacant, ALL suitably qualified individuals in Australia might be eligible to be appointed ... or only those in upper echelons of the Labor Party? Is this not equally a potential for discriminatory employment processes ?

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    1. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Ron Spielman

      I think most would prefer ambassadorial appointments - and indeed, States' agents-general - to be made on merit. Unfortunately the practice of political appointments to these posts is bipartisan, long standing and entrenched.

      Nonetheless, as prime minister Rudd appointed as ambassadors former Nationals leader Tim Fischer, former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson and former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone. Perhaps these, also, weren't appointed on merit, but at least they weren't as partisan as most ambassadorial appointments.

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    2. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Yes and Bob Carr appointed pal QC and Papal Knight, John McCarthy as Ambassador to the Holy See, this time last year, no mere coincidence with the Inquiry in Vicctoria , the precurser to the Royal Commission nation wide.
      No mere coincidence that the Cardinal was informed before anyone else.

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  18. Russell Walton
    Russell Walton is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired

    Religious groups should not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

    Citizens of even the most liberal of liberal democracies do not enjoy religious freedom, all are subject to the parameters set by the state, so it's more accurate to say religions are under fewer restrictions in democracies.

    "Believers and non-believers have to share a society," indeed, and we can only share a society on the basis of our common humanity and that can only be expressed free from the public exercise of the prejudices, superstitions and cruelties of institutionalised religions.

    There should be no compromise on that principle.

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  19. Daniel Boon

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I'm not even going to to read this ...

    IMO .....religions CREATED Discrimination Laws ... history drips blood of it ...

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    1. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

      Galatians 3:28

      [Saint] Paul of Tarsus circa 60 AD.

      ;)

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  20. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Wow, Patrick, you've got almost 100 percent support. Not too many respondents from the religious side of things (bit disappointing to see that Christianity is singled out by many - try being a gay muslim...). It would be fascinating to see the responses for an article in favour of the exemption. Cheers

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    1. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to John Phillip

      I hear what you are saying, but its wrong to assume that all the responses hear are from non religious people.

      The Australian Christian Lobby do not represent the majority of Australian Chrisitians - like yourself a gay muslim, even though your religious you recognise that descrimination is descrimination and should not be tolerated.

      I mean by definition the only people that are for this are bigots

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    2. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to John Phillip

      try being a christian in syria, egypt, pakistan, UE, Nigria, Mali, Yemen, Iran, Indoneisa and a number of other countries

      and for out athiest friends and homosexuals there is even less hope for you in these countries..

      here is just one of the latest stories where christians face a death sentance....

      http://www.aina.org/news/20130115185246.htm

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  21. Julia Anaf

    Researcher at University sector

    As Section 116 of the Constitution does not guarantee the separation of church and state politicians will find themselves playing the 'religion card' for political expediency.

    While the latest iteration is Prime Minister Gillard's defensive approach to dealing with faith based employment discrimination, former employment minister Tony Abbott was more robust in his support for faith based welfare organisations who chose discriminatory hiring practices. His view was 'there is something special about people with faith in their hearts and God on their lips that gives them that extra commitment to job seekers'.

    Unedifying as all this may be, until religious bodies are no longer facilitated to employ power over others or to discriminate against others through their taxpayer funding, all citizens are effectively forced to collude in acting against their best interests.

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  22. Dennis Alexander

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Generally,where religious organisations do want to discriminate, the test for employment in those religious organisations is a positive test as to whether you can affirm whatever are the important religious principles in your life and practice. And, it is usually part of the job descriptin that the employee does affirm and demonstrate in their own life those principles. It is the same test for everyone and if an LGBT individual believes that they can in good faith make such an affirmation (yes, it is possible), then refusing to employ such an indivdual would constitute actual discrimination in the legally proscribed sense - all employment selection processes are acts of discrimination just not in the legally proscribed sense because we don't care about the incompetent and useless not succeeding.

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  23. Rajan Venkataraman

    Citizen

    Thanks for this article Patrick

    I think it is outrageous that a modern nation like Australia would even contemplate an exemption of this kind to anti-discrimination laws. Is this what our values of equality and the dignity of all human beings boil down to? Imagine the outcry if sharia law were to be imported into our legal system. Yet this is precisely what this proposed law does.

    The spokes-people for the Christian lobby are describing this as "freedom of religious expression". This is disingenous…

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    1. Nick Stafford

      writer

      In reply to Rajan Venkataraman

      Interesting article and discussion.

      As someone who knows god, but consciously chooses not to submit to any particular human religion, it seems clear to me that all of the different religious condemnations of homosexuality have nothing to do with either homosexuality or god.

      Instead the condemnation of homosexuality is an expression of humankinds need for scapegoats to define what is bad or evil.

      God created us all, so any human who condemns or disciminates against someone for being gay…

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Nick Stafford

      "two religious communities have murdered, enslaved, and exploited since their emergence"

      Humans are a species to whom murdering, enslaving and exploiting comes naturally. The existence or absence of revealed religion does not alter that.

      What you need to consider, as Philip Dick put it, is: "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others"

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Richard Dout

      Human rights are used to justify wars as well, we will always find justification for wars and we will wrap ourselves in whatever ideology at the time allows us to advance them

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  24. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    Religious organisations have rarely changed willingly with change having to be forced upon them by laws.
    Torturing people to do death for heresy, being able to criminally penalise people for blasphemy are examples where power once had was taken away.
    Freedom of religion means freedom from religion, both equal choices.
    What the state gives, can a religion take away, can any religion deny freedom of religion or freedom from religion when it interacts with the public in any way.

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    1. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Yes it can; according to Canon Law.
      A clergy father can have his name entered as such on his childs Birth Certificate and yet removed without consent of either parent in the Baptismal Register.

      And the Pope can ligitimize a clergyman's child and the father can't!

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  25. Reinhard Dekter

    logged in via Facebook

    From what I've read of the comments there seems to be very little understanding of the fundamental premise behind anti-discrimination laws. It is not a question of morality or ethics. The premise is that equality of outcome is a suitable goal for society, in other words, socialism. I oppose all anti-discrimination laws not because I am religious but because I believe that forcing someone to do something against their will is morally reprehensible at best, and doing it for no good reason is downright…

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    1. Rajan Venkataraman

      Citizen

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      Reinhard
      With all due respect, I think it is you who has very little understanding of the fundamentals. Yes, discrimination is a fact of life. However, equality before the law is a different matter entirely and, I would argue, is a legitimate goal for society to aspire toward. Enshrining the ability to discriminate against individuals for the purposes of employment or providing services on the basis of colour, creed, sexual orientation, age etc is something that I find repugnant. The legal systems of most nations - at least those that subscribe to liberal traditions - have expressly forbidden such discrimination.

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    2. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      "The premise is that equality of outcome is a suitable goal for society, in other words, socialism."

      - I would argue that it relates fundamentally to opportunity as opposed to outcome. On the notion of discrmination that involves "...restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group."
      If you have equal 10 jobs on the same factory floor, than the otcome is equal in each instance. It is the opportunity that is denied by discrimination. You can't…

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      Reinhardt, your analysis is far too complex for this kind of audience. What is required here is one-line slogans, and lots of blind hate. You need to find just the right kind of buttons to push. like this author. Then you'd be in with the crowd.

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    4. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      From your comments, Reinhard, I take it that you see morality/ethics as concerned primarily or perhaps entirely with individual autonomy. Would that be a fair assessment? If so, I'd suggest you're only looking at one part of the moral picture here. Autonomy does have moral weight. So does suffering and the need to ameliorate it. So does the flourising of individuals, communities and societies. All these things matter morally, not just individual rights and freedom from non-interference.

      Also, at some point, someone with better pol-sci chops than me really needs to put together a handy flowchart for telling when the term 'socialism' applies. It's got to be one of the most loosely-used terms in online discussions, as if anything less than an absolutist libertarianism is 'socialist.'

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    5. Reinhard Dekter

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rajan Venkataraman

      I am not due any more respect than others, Rajan.

      Suppose you are an employer with absolutely no racial bias making a hiring decision. Before you are two candidates, both equally qualified but one is disrespectful and rude and the other is polite and friendly. Suppose the rude one was an Indian and the polite one a "caucasian". You hire the white man because you think he will be a better worker, then the Indian goes to the courts and complains of racial discrimination, eventually forcing a settlement…

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    6. Reinhard Dekter

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoffrey Edwards

      I invite you to practice what you preach and choose your employer, emplloyees, friends, family and so on using a random number generator.

      Flippancy aside, you didn't make any genuine arguments against my point. Nothing in life is ever exactly the same as another thing, and because of the limited time and other resources given us in this life we are required to make some sort of choice about what we do, with whom we associate and so on. Those choices are either free or coerced, there's no middle…

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    7. Reinhard Dekter

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      You are right in saying that suffering, and the other things you mentioned have moral weight. That is precisely why anti-discrimination laws should be wholly abolished. As I mentioned above the net result of such laws is that racial tensions and therefore violence will tend to increase because people feel forced.

      Consider yet another unintended consequence of this law: suppose anti-discrimination law produced the result that black Africans who were really not as qualified as white competitors…

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    8. Geoffrey Edwards

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      "Those choices are either free or coerced, there's no middle ground."

      - I am pretty sure that most people would argue against the possibility of a "choice" that is coerced. Coercion is where we are compelled to an involuntary action. i.e, something that is against our will. This would be the opposite of choice, wouldn't it?

      "What you mean is that there are people you don't necessarily want to associate with but other desires trump your natural prejudice..."
      - Agreed.

      "What anti-discrimination…

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    9. Rajan Venkataraman

      Citizen

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      Good point, Reinhard. Indeed the respect I thought you were due was no more than that owed to others. Although, as a general rule, I tend to give more respect to people when they don't seek to judge me or discriminate against me on the basis of my colour, creed, age, sexual orientation etc. I accept that such people exist despite my best efforts to convince them that their views are unjustified. I think its a retrograde step when discriminatory actions that are based on such views are given protection under the law.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Reinhard Dekter

      Reinhard, these are arbitrarily contructed examples that don't necessarily bear much relationship to reality.

      In the first instance you construct, the Indian applicant would be legally required to provide reasonably substantive evidence of racial discrimination - not just his personal belief. This, in practice, is actually exceptionally hard to do so, contrary to your implication, the overwhelming power still rests with the employer - all the more so given that, generally, a company has greater…

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  26. Meg Thornton

    Dilletante

    There's one thing which hasn't been raised as a point in this argument so far, and it's about the hypocrisy of the various Christian churches (at the very least) insisting on their right to discriminate against all and sundry.

    Now, one of the things that Christ was pretty big on was that his path wasn't for everyone (he covers this in the parable of the sower - Mark 4: 3 - 9), and that not all of those who set out on the path will make it to the end (Mark 4: 14 - 23). He also pointed out that…

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    1. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Meg Thornton

      Says you.....thats the beauty of religion mate, there is no one ultimate truth, people make it up as they go along, like the snake chruches or the horse patting churches who think patting horses will "cure" gayness

      For every bleeding heart liberal religious person claiming they have the truth there is another person claiming they are not true christians

      Trying to define what a "True" Christian is or what christianity really teaches is a waste of time, an endless pit of ignorance and superstition

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    2. Meg Thornton

      Dilletante

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, I'm not sure whether you noticed there, but I was actually providing references for everything I cited Christ as having said. It's all there in the core text of the Christian religion - and they're cites of the recorded words of the founder of the faith.

      That said, while I was raised Christian (my father used to be a minister in the Church of Christ, and is still a regular churchgoer) I long ago chose my own path. These days I identify as pantheistic pagan - and I don't believe that…

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    3. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Meg Thornton

      Yeah I hear you, and good points. I think what you have to understand is that there are literally hundreds of thousands of christians who will read the same text and disagree with you - such is the nature of religion

      You see, I have one christian here citing the text and claiming X - I have hundreds of thousands of christians over here stating that you are wrong and here's the little secret, the vast majority of religious people on a very fundamental level do not care whether what they believe…

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    4. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, previously I posted a fairly diverse list of the world's religions, without even bothering to list the myriad versions of Christianity. Your point remains the same: they (all religions and their various branches) cannot all be right. In Australia, simply due to demographic, we get a lot of "Christianity is the only true path to...god, whatever". If this was Afghanistan the refrain would be "Islam is the only true path...". Of course in both cases it is reasonable to ask which version of Christianity, which subset of Islam?

      Far easier to simply reject the lot, say I. Not so simple for our government, apparently.

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  27. Noely

    logged in via Twitter

    The only time when a faith-based institution should be able to discriminate is when it actually comes to the religious role itself, ie Priest, Nun, basically someone performing a religious service only! This change they are looking at is awful, and to add insult to injury, in many cases it will be tax payers who are funding this 'legal' discrimination of other taxpayers? How is that good?

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  28. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    "The question here isn’t whether (some) religious believers are right or wrong to be offended by homosexuality in this way."

    I do not think that religion is concerned about alleged offense of homosexuality, rather it is a view that homosexuality does not represent a state of health.

    Christians who feel strongly about this simply ask that they be allowed not to confuse what their revealed religion tells them is a state of health with a state of disease. Or at least to have a space where they can assert that this difference exists, a space where they can educate their children.

    A person with one arm is perhaps to be pitied, but we should not say it is a matter of indifference to an individual whether they have two arms or one arms, nor should go around encouraging people to have their arms cut off in solidarity with the one-armed - or at least so a Christian might express themselves.

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      I agree with some of what you're saying Sean: while I think there's something profoundly morally wrong about seeing same-sex couples as 'unhealthy' I don't dispute that some people believe that on the basis of revelation, and as I say in the article I don't think we should trivialise the depth or importance these beliefs have for people. As I mentioned I have Christian friends who really struggle with this stuff. But the question before us is whether society should tolerate discriminatory employment…

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Well would you prefer unfortunate to unhealthy? I think you are put a value judgement on the word healthy where it does not belong.
      If I have a bout of the flu I am not morally any different to how I was before I had the flu. But neither would I think the state of having the flu or not have the flu are equally delightful.
      On the other hand if I met a person who said "I have the flu and I love it." I might cautiously think well, gee, I am sorry you have the flu but if this attitude helps you…

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb - what puzzles me is the focus on sexuality as "health" - are other aspect of morality healthy or unhealthy as well?

      What about a dishonest lifestyle - is that unhealthy? An immodest lifestyle? Gambling? An avaricious lifestyle?

      How do you sort through which morals are more "healthy" than the others?

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "How do you sort through which morals are more "healthy" than the others?"

      Well, the short answer is I don't,its not really my business what other people do.
      What you need to understand is the Christianity is not a set of ancient beliefs somehow still lingering in a twilight under the bright glare of enlightenment, but a narrative: it has a beginning, it has a middle, it has an end.
      We are well past the beginning and somewhere in the middle, but how close to the end, no one can say. When we reach the end of the Christian narrative, according to the scriptures, we will experience a crisis, the exact nature of which is unclear, but what seems to be suggested is that one of the markers of that crisis will be a decomposition in normal sexual behavior. Christians naturally want to protect their loved ones, as far as possible, from this collapse.

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    5. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I may have made reference to this before, but on the Catholic Education Resourse Centre site, John R.Diggs MD touches on this.
      Happy reading!

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    6. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Well, I'd say that if you well past the beginning and somewhere in the middle, surely you are around half-way, give or take a 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card or two, so it's roughly the same amount to the end, that's how close, easy to say, wouldn't you say?

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Happy reading indeed, Lynne Newington...

      This John Diggs guy seems to confuse sexuality with promiscuity. He tries to argue that lesbian sex is a threat to health, and also uses references like this one from 1984: " "Rectal Insemination Modifies Immune Responses in Rabbits," Science, 27(224): 390-392 (1984)."

      As a self-declared researcher, how do you assess that list of references?

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    8. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne - what did you think of Diggs' argument, which you cited? As a researcher, did you think his references were relevant and contemporary?

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    9. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Well actually I did: I saw a connection between sexuality, health and a religious perspective.
      I also felt it gave a sense of distain towards those of the particular orientation, even though it stated respect and tolerance must be given.
      You haven't taken it in the spirit it was referred to which surprised me.

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      "You haven't taken it in the spirit it was referred to which surprised me."

      Lynne - apologies if I misunderstood your intention - but the short message that included your citation didn't convey any spirit.

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  29. Dan Smith

    Network Engineer

    Great article, again. Coincidentally this morning, I was reading the transcript of the Christopher Hitchens/Tony Blair debate on the topic "Religion is a force of good in the world". At one stage, Blair made this revealing point (speaking about himself):

    "[...] the thing about religion and religious faith is that if you are a person of faith it's part of your character, it defines you in many ways as a human being."

    I can see how having this attitude to one's opinions would make one feel that…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dan Smith

      Thanks Dan. For what it's worth, I'd actually accept that many beliefs - moral ones as well as religious ones - "Well, that's just what I believe deep down to be true" probably is as far as we can go in argument. Faith just works like that, and as I say I don't think we should be trivialising these beliefs. But believers and non-believers have to live together, and you're right that how we do that can't involve supernaturalist reasons.

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    2. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Absolutely. We all believe "deep down" in things that we cannot prove in any mathematical sense, but we can at least discuss them on their own merits and strive for at least an internal consistency. We should also all be subject to the same legal standard of evaluation when determining whether our beliefs are valid, sound, acceptable etc. All that needs to happen here is the removal of an exemption based on what is, at core, either an appeal to supernatural moral authority, or the arrogance to think that one's own "core beliefs" are held at a more sacred or important level than others'.

      That an anti discrimination law displays discrimination in who it applies to is an irony we don't need. The government loses any sense of its own moral authority by maintaining such exemptions, and by blatantly stating that they don't see it as detracting from potential legislation.

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  30. chris matthews

    mediator

    As someone who is gay and who once worked for a religious non government agency I can say that the greatest fear I had for myself and others was that the organisation could use the discriminatory power they held as means of industrial control.

    As an employer there are certain procedures and rules of natural justice that apply when seeking to counsel, discipline, demote or sack an employee. But if you are gay all the employer has to say is that they have become aware that your lifestyle is at odds with the moral and religious values they purport to hold. You have no comeback at all.

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  31. Natalie Bennett

    Lecturer

    Firstly, the position discussed herein that if religious organisations, such as schools, want to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws then they should not receive public funding is negated by the fact that only a very small part of anyone's tax is spent on religious schools and if all children went to government schools we could not afford our tax bill - so people who pay privately to educate their children are actually subsidising everyone's tax - it works BOTH ways.
    I am a Christian and I…

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    1. Rajan Venkataraman

      Citizen

      In reply to Natalie Bennett

      Natalie
      You raise some good points and of course I can understand that you would want your priest to belong to a certain religion and even that the teachers of your children should subscribe to a certain value system (at least the teachers of certain subjects). However, I cannot accept that taxes that I have paid should go to organisations that might discriminate against me on the basis of my race, creed, sexual orientaton, or any other factor that causes them "sensitivities". It seems only reasonable that if an organisation wishes to discriminate against citizens for these kinds of reasons, then they should decline funding from those same citizens.

      Yes, you are probably correct that some of these organisations provide services that might otherwise not be provided or might prove more costly to provide by other means. I can't accept that this is sufficient reason to fund organisations that carry out discriminatory practices that we would otherwise find intolerable.

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    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Natalie Bennett

      Thats a very self centered view and is a little disgusting from a christian

      Public education is the backbone of our nation, nothing levels the playing field more than education. I dont have kids but my taxes still fund public schools and I am glad for that.

      If you can afford upward of 5,000 a year for your kids tuition then that is awesome......there are many many more who cant due to circumstances beyond their control and certainly beyond the childs control - your comment sounded very resentful to those children - Of course your taxes should pay for their education, thats why we have taxes

      Also, the claim that sending kids to private schools subsidizes public schools cannot be taken seriously. Private schools received $47 billion in funding last year from the government - State schools only got $35 billion

      I suggest you get off your upper middle class high horse and be more empathetic and understanding to those children less fortunate than yours

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Rajan Venkataraman

      "However, I cannot accept that taxes that I have pai"
      Well Mr Vankataraman, I can't accept taxes I pay go to pay Cabinet advisors, but we don't get to micromanage our tax burdens like that.

      If it is any consolation all the taxes you pay are in effect given to you from the taxes Australians in the private sector pay to fund both your salary and the portion of it that goes in taxes. Many of those people funding you would be Christian.

      If given a choice they would doubtless be as keen that their taxes do not go to fund you, as you are that the portion of that money you return to the government does not go to fund allegedly discriminatory practices in private schools

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Natalie Bennett

      Natalie, surely the mere fact that you pay for something yourself doesn't exempt you from the relevant law. People who sell products and services to privat eindividuals are not exempt from the relevant law.

      I know I'm treading perilously close to a slippery slope argument here, but the mere fact that somebody put up their own money doesn't give them the right to purchase something illegal.

      What you're describing is a subtle, and fairly low-harm version of this principle, but it is still an example of that principle.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Hate to tell you Sean, but we chronic suckers-on-the-public-teat also pay taxes.

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Natalie Bennett

      Natalie Bennett - I can understand that you want your children taught by Christian teachers. What I can't understand is why sexual orientation is held to be a marker for being a Christian.

      Would you reject a homosexual teacher who also held and practised the Christian faith? Would you accept a heterosexual who identified as a Christian but was privately a racist, or arrogant?

      How does the body of people calling themselves "Christian" decide which behaviours include or exclude people from the group?

      I can see more logic to employing a homosexual teacher who lives a life guided by Christian principles (albeit imperfectly) and is motivated by their faith to live a good life than employing a person in a heterosexual relationship but follows Christianity imperfectly in multiple different ways. Does that make any sense to you?

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    7. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "Hate to tell you Sean, but we chronic suckers-on-the-public-teat also pay taxes."

      Even worse, it appears functional literacy is not a prerequisite to becoming a sucker on the public teat.
      I admit it was not the most elegant phrasing, but surely it was fairly straightforward:
      "If it is any consolation all the taxes you pay are in effect given to you from the taxes Australians in the private sector pay to fund both your salary and the portion of it that goes in taxes"
      Don't you perceive a little…

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    8. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, apart from providing you with a chance to vent a little spleen, does this comment actually mean anything or relate in any way to what I said?

      I merely noted that we all pay taxes, whether working in the private or public sector (I believe even academics pay taxes) - I simply sought to correct your incomplete statement ("...Australians in the private sector...") with the intent to remind you that all citizens are in this equally - all contributing and all making use of jointly funded services.

      From this you constructed some projection that I was demanding that my values be applied across the board. And you imply that I lack functional literacy?

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    9. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      He won't address your specific questions and issues, Felix, he didn't mine, but don't doubt the christian values.

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    10. A Ahmed

      Student

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      @Sue,

      i am confused as to why sexuality of a teacher is up for discussion..

      If a hetro sexual teacher is discussing their sexuality with students would we be alarmed? So if sexuality of a teacher or clergy becomes a topic of discussion then what.. should we be calling the police? or is it somehow discrimination if the person in question is gay!

      I would like to think that if both homosexual and hetrosexual teachers keep their sexuality out of work then why would there be an issue?

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  32. Geoff Taylor

    Consultant

    Can I assume that everyone who has blogged against discrimination supports the EU court's very recent decision to allow people to continue to wear a cross on a necklace at work?

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    1. Richard Dout

      Citizen

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      I don't. The church preaches discrimination . Until this stops (which it never will as it is one of it's core defining qualities), why should they be treated reasonably?

      Equality and fairness to anyone who plays by those rules. The church isn't one of them.

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  33. Tony Simons
    Tony Simons is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Dodgy Director

    Both Gillard's opportunism and the churches' hypocrisy have won out.

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  34. Richard Wilson

    Anglican Priest

    This is an interesting article and an interesting stream of commentary. Please understand that Australian Christian Lobby does not represent the Church - far from it. It has a particular view of the world and the Church's place in it which is simply not shared by most of us. For my taste it is not only too fundamentalist and narrow, but misrepresents the very revelation it purports to hold as fundamental. The life of Christ was if nothing else not discriminatory. The example this man gave was to open his life so inclusively to other people that society of the time scandalised. Technically its called comensality - all are welcome at my table. He was executed for it.

    In my part of the Church we aim to include any who come to us. I hope we are in some way successful. LGBT inclusion has achieved such normality as to seem unremarkable.

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  35. Meredith Doig

    logged in via LinkedIn

    The Rationalist Society of Australia, together with other secularist, humanist and atheist groups, says it's clear what Australian governments should do:

    1. A clear separation between religion and the State. All Australian constitutions should be reformed to ensure clear separation between religion and the State, and all references to God removed. Religious references in statutory oaths and pledges should be removed, and parliamentary prayers replaced with non-religious observances.
    No laws made…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Meredith Doig

      Meredith, ideally that is what governments SHOULD do. Any predictions on whether this action will be led by a Labor or LNP government?

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    2. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Meredith Doig

      And are you continuing to wonder why your membership ranks are being depleted, Meredith? I now understand why so many of my colleagues determined to let their memberships lapse, with the change in your leadership.

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    3. Meredith Doig

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Diana, have you been a member of the Rationalists? How do you know what our membership numbers are? How do you know if those numbers are going up or down?

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    4. Geoff Taylor

      Consultant

      In reply to Meredith Doig

      It is interesting to go to the Rationalist Society website and examine its beliefs, including that all sense about human existence should be based on observation of the natural world alone.
      I guess from that the animists could get a look-in.

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Meredith Doig

      Well, Merrian, let me just say that I know some people ...

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  36. Paul Reader

    independent researcher

    The idea that "Religious faith, however it finds expression, is an essentially inward, private state of profound certainty" relies on a modern and very individualistic idea about what it is to be human. As humanity seeks "sustainability" in the face of not only individual deaths, but real threat of end to civilization, more integral forms of consciousness and relationship gain prominence. Derek Jensen in Endgame,contradicts Pinker's view of a less violent world; seeing today's civilization as domestic…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Reader

      Actually, Paul, we don't 'know' anything of the sort, well not any more than we know who dunnit when we come to the end of an Agatha Christie novel...

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    2. Paul Reader

      independent researcher

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, our inference is that the oral tradition of the Abrahamic religion, in the case of the story of Lot, at least, is a fiction. It is clear however that these religions and cultures put a lot of store in the wisdom of these stories, sufficient to merit the survival of the story alongside continuation of the culture. I wonder if Agatha Christie will even be known in 3000 years time, and if she is, how real she will be considered to be then? Surely you would not doubt that various cities and civilizations have met untimely and barely explicable ends, even if a direct connection to the hand of God remains unproven or unsatisfactory as an explanation?

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Paul Reader

      Paul, I wouldn't deny that all sorts of odd stuff has happened...nor would I deny that the idea that all of this was determined by the Supreme Artichoke of Mars was unproven.

      Is there any actual meaning anywhere here?

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    4. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Reader

      Paul Reader - do you make no distinction between "religious faith" and rules for living?

      The bibilical times you speak of - " tribes and societies where people lived with sodomy, adultery and unloving ways"- referred to a specific time and a specific society - middle eastern desert, thousands of years ago.

      Apart from "sodomy, adultery and unloving ways", old testament rules for living at that time included stoning, beating of children, dietary laws, slavery, circumcision - and many others…

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  37. Dania Ng

    Retired factory worker

    I find this article repugnant. It is badly researched and propagandist in nature. I would be ashamed to call myself a scholar. Under an image of the cross (why not another religious symbol, or a combination of such symbols?), we find a defense of the idea that everyone should bend to the will of an ideology. The ideology is that of equality rather than equity.
    The aim is pretty clear here. It is to demonise Christian services no matter what they do, simply because they are religious. The author…

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    1. In reply to Dania Ng

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Where exactly do I demonise Christian services? The question is simply whether or not religious beliefs give you the right to discriminatory employment practices. I argue they do not. If you disagree, point to the flaws in my argument.

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    3. Richard Dout

      Citizen

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Hmm, I sense a bit of touchy religious person here...

      Just cause they aren't completely bad doesn't justify their discriminatory behavior. This article doesn't demonize, no need, the church do a fine job of doing that all by themselves... Let's see how that Royal commission turns out eh? Glad you support such a cause.

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    4. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick, you begin your paper thus: "A little over a century ago, our first prime minister told our first parliament that “the doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman”. Don't you realise what this implies to those whom you speak of in your article? What does this mean, exactly? Does it mean that Christians (because they are clearly who you are taking to task here) are discriminating in their employment of homosexuals in the same…

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Richard Dout

      Thanks Richard for your thoughts. I am more than a touch spiritual, not religious. I am merely sticking up for the other side of the argument. I don't have to be even a tad religious to do that. Yes, let's wait and see what the inquiry turns up, though I don't see the link with discrimination in employment. I don't support causes, I support rights, including the right of anyone to employment on merit.

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    6. Richard Dout

      Citizen

      In reply to Dania Ng

      fair enough. I was a bit harsh. Nothing wrong with being spiritual (supernatural or otherwise) btw :)

      But I can't help but come back to thinking of the rights of the all the people that religion has hurt over the years, and how people seem to forget this, and make it seem like the church is the under dog and being attacked.

      I think it's easy to get hung up on rights when we really need to look at the big picture. Today people seem to "know all their rights but forget all of their responsibilities…

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    7. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Richard Dout

      Sure, Richard. I agree with what you're saying totally. Churches (and other such) have a responsibility to be just and not discriminate, if only because they claim the moral high ground in many respects. But this is a different proposition from fanning ochlocratic sentiments against religious people and organisations, which is what this article has done if you look closely at the comments that follow.

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    8. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      So in other words, you can't actually identify any flaws in the argumentation, so you'll simply content yourself with imputing imaginary motives to me. You'll also bring irrelevant points in such as whether employment discrimination is actually going on. It wouldn't really matter for my argument whether it happens or not (though as some comments here alone have demonstrated, it does); the point is that the law should not give someone the right to discriminate on morally irrelevant grounds on the…

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    9. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick. I understand (from your response here and elsewhere you have written) that you are not going to admit to any flaws in your reasoning, preferring instead to change the rules of engagement as you go along. I would suggest that, as a whole, your article argues for changing anti-discrimination legislation. As a whole, your article focuses on Christian organisations. As a whole, your article is saying that religious organisations routinely engage in discrimination, and this (just as in the analogy…

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    10. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Point out some flaws, and if they're real flaws, I'll gladly admit to them. Thus far you've said nothing about the argumentation of the piece, apart from misrepresenting the article as claiming that "religious organisations routinely engage in discrimination." As the Age article I linked to shows, not all religious groups support these exemptions, let alone use them. But a bad law that never gets used would still be a bad law; and a law that leaves thousands of people insecure in their job simply…

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    11. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Oh, good grief. I stand vindicated in respect to my previous statement. You know perfectly well what I am talking about, otherwise I have underestimated your intellect. When I read your responses I can't help but be reminded of Oscar Wilde's observation, "“I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying”.
      So I won't push it here. I think I will write a piece on this for my website, this publication looks unable or uninterested in facilitating a balanced discussion on important societal issues.

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    12. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      In Short "I can't identify flaws in your reasoning so I'm going off to my own space to complain"

      Patrick asked you to identify flaws in his reasoning - It is a valid request since he is unlikely to see the flaws in his own reasoning or he would not have written what he did in the first place.

      If you have the chips to play, pony up and lets see where his error lies.

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    13. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Ms Ng - for someone who has "sat on a number of relevant boards and committees of management", you appear not to be making a distinction between the practice of religion and the operation of an institution or business that is an employer.

      The author is not arguing that all humans should endorse any particular lifestyle or set of values - either personally or explicitly. Most of us can accept that others might have values or beliefs different to our own, and should be able to hold as live those beliefs, so long as they don't harm or impinge on the freedom of others (within the structure and laws of our society).

      There are different responsibilities for employers that are beyond the way individuals hold personal beliefs. Any organisation that has a commercial agreement with an employee has a whole different structure and set of rules as a result of operating in the marketplace. If I understand correctly, that is what this article is about.

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    14. David Hamer

      student

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Hi Dr Stokes, I have tried to analyse your article (using third person impersonal language) to show how/why religious people may feel offended and attacked. Also I have outlined one of the flaws I can find in your argument.

      Stokes opinion piece “Love thy neighbor: religious groups should not be exempt from discrimination laws” contends that anti-discrimination laws should apply to religious organisations. The accompanying image quickly establishes the author’s position. Featured centrally…

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    15. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      But that's exactly the point I made, Sue, that most religious organisations separate the service delivery 'business' they're in from their religious activities. The last board I was on, we had members who came from various businesses around the area, a couple of academics, and individuals from health and welfare professions. In almost five years of monthly meeting, the closest we came to religion was a short blessing offered by the Bishop's representative, when she attended, which was not too often. The rest of the business we conducted had nothing to do with religion, and not once in all the time I was on that board did I hear anything about employment discrimination, for whatever reason.
      I do know that the people in that good organisation would be quite upset by what this article insinuates.

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    16. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      And I have outlined the issues I have with the article. I am not playing by rules constantly being dreamed up by him, or anyone else. I asked for some explanations, I don't much care that you or anyone else don't like how I framed my questions, let's have the answers. He continues to want to make up his own rules of engagement as they suit, so then why should I not go to my website and write a piece? You have something against me doing this?

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    17. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to David Hamer

      Bravo, David. I admire your methodical and patient critique.

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    18. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      If most (christian) religious organisations separate their service delivery from their religious activities there is no need for them to insist that their service delivery be exempt from anti discrimination legislation.

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    19. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "I have outlined the issues I have with the article"

      Outlining your issues with the article is a far cry from identifying "flaws in your reasoning: Dania - not agreeing with the article in tone or content does not mean it is poorly reasoned. You keep suggesting the reasoning is flawed but your retorts have been visceral rather than analytical. You are quite entitled to respond however you choose but if you claim to see flaws then point them out. Patrick said that if you do so he will conceed the points related - surely that would be worthwhile in this debate?

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    20. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      " I am more than a touch spiritual"

      I have always wondered what people mean by the term "spiritual", especially when used in contradistinction to religiosity.

      Ms Ng, can you explain please? Do you believe in spirits?

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    21. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gavin, I think we should focus on what it is being actually asked that the new legislation should do. Then it would be much clearer why religious organisations (and others) oppose the changes, or at best they want to be excluded. There's one thing to ask that employers don't discriminate against their employees or in their hiring practices (which the law does at the moment, hence my example regarding what actually happens in religious organisations), and another to make organisations approve and celebrate something they feel strongly against. It is like me taking my employer to court because they don't place crucifixes all around the place to 'celebrate' and 'acknowledge' my Christianity.

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    22. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      That's great, Dania - but have you missed the point that a lobby group has successfully argued for the right to discriminate?

      Nobody here has alleged that every religion-based institution or business discriminates in this way. This article and comments debate whether some of these institutions or businesses, operating in the commercial world, should have the legal right to impose employment discrimination.

      Do you think they should have that right?

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    23. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to David Hamer

      Hi David,

      Thanks for this. It's a little tricky to respond to this as it looks like you've done a rhetoric analysis of the language rather than the substantive argument, but let's give it a go. I’ll go through this point-by-point, so sorry if this takes a little while:

      “The accompanying image quickly establishes the author’s position. Featured centrally in the shot is a cross; however it is being obscured by rising sun. The metaphor is obvious; that religion is fading into insignificance with…

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    24. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Well, I can perhaps explain my view of spirituality by reference to a personal story, I hope you'll accept my explanation, if not I am happy to direct you to some literature.
      When I was a youngster, I became a refugee from a communist country. In running away from that country, I had to swim across this quite broad river. Up until then, I didn't have a religious education - it was a communist education system that I was exposed to all of my short life until then. God and religion was belittled and…

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    25. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "Do you think they should have that right?"
      Depends what you mean by discrimination, and it depends what you mean by commercial world. Do you mean a free market commercial world? Or a command economy? If you turn the kind of argumentation I think you're defending around, what about the fact that I decided not to buy any more books from Amazon because they have donated a large amount of money to gay activist organisations? And what of the fact that I will not vote for the Greens again, because they…

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    26. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Thank you for sharing that story, Dania. I think many people would use the word "God" for the phenomenon you describe.

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    27. David Hamer

      student

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Hi Patrick,

      A very sincere thank you for taking the time to respond to my analysis. As a student I have done far too many of them. However it is the first time I have been lucky enough to have the authors opinion on what I have written.

      Also my apologies about the image analysis, I assumed that you must have chosen it, my mistake.

      So thank you again for taking the time to write such a detailed response.

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    28. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania - the way you exercise your choice of bookstore or school is an entirely different matter from exempting an employer from anti-discrimination rules.

      You know as well as I do that anti-discrimination law, like industrial law, applies equally to any employer - in both private and public sectors." Should a private business be able to pay less than minimum wage because they are not publicly funded?

      The argument about the right to employ only people who "reflect the organisational values" comes down to this: which aspects of a person's life have to reflect those values? All of them? If not all, then how to choose between the values, and why focus only on sexual ones?

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    29. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, you mentioned commercial arrangements, so I assumed you mean a society in which a reasonably free market is its economic foundation. If an organisation pays wages which are well below the market value of labour, then that organisation will not find sufficent employees and will go under, ceteris paribus. The same goes for other conditions. If an employer imposes strict conditions that people find unreasonable, then they don't have to work for that organisation. There are plenty of situations…

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    30. Gavin Moodie
      Gavin Moodie is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct professor at RMIT University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      I agree that it would be good to consider what the Bill seeks to do, rather than peoples' projection of it.

      The Bill would not 'make organisations approve and celebrate something they feel strongly against' but simply proscribe discrimination on specified grounds in employment and in providing services. The churches are exempted from that prohibition.

      Some of us oppose that exemption, on various grounds. Perhaps you also oppose that exemption since you seem to argue that (christian) churches don't discriminate in their activities which are not directly religious.

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    31. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dania Ng

      " And I am still perplexed as to why I didn't call on comrade Marx, or Lenin, or Stalin. "

      Why would anyone call on *anyone*, dead, alive, real or imagined, who was not available to give help?

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    32. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dania Ng

      What do you mean by "an aged care worker who flaunts his or her homosexuality openly offensive and distressing"?

      Do heterosexuals not realise how much they may flaunt their sexual relationships? Or how much religionists may flaunt their beliefs in a way that is " offensive and distressing" to others.

      " On average, homosexuals are, on every socioeconomic indicator, better off than the rest of us. " Not so. And the high suicide rates amongst gay teens who have been rejected by family, school…

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    33. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to mike williams

      See my previous comment. These tired old propagandist arguments that have no basis in fact (except made-up ones) are getting pretty well dogeared by now. Time to invent new ones?

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    34. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania - your last paragraph, beginning "The homosexualist lobby..." describes a world that does not exist.

      As a self-described spiritualist, do you really believe that socioeconomic indicators are the only indicators of well-being? You don't recognise the effects of such entrenched stigma that can lead a young person to be disowned by their family?

      You say "The few employers that do discriminate..." Do you not acknowledge that an influential group has successfully argued for the legal right to discriminate, purely on that basis?

      What is the value of political power for a group for which the law can grant an exemption to the right for a job, purely on the grounds of sexual orientation?

      Are there no other important, or defining, Christian values than sexual orientation?

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    35. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to mike williams

      "an aged care worker who flaunts his or her homosexuality openly offensive and distressing"?

      I would expect that any person who behaved in an offensive and distressing way should be held accountable for that behaviour. Are old people only offended by "flaunting" of "homosexuality"? What does that even mean?

      In my experience, residents of Aged Care facilities are mostly offended by people who don't like them and don't care about them.

      Dania - for someone who appears to be so widely read…

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    36. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      (Apologies to mike williams - my comment starting "an aged care worker..." is addressed to Ms Ng.)

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    37. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue. I have researched this area [gay rights movement, or homosexualism] quite a bit, and I am far from persuaded that there is no activism involved, the evidence is simply just too extensive to think otherwise. The mistake (or for some, the purposeful lie) that some people make in labeling what I and others say 'homophobic' is in that they think I am 'against' gay people. I said in a few places that I do not agree with, and I dislike some of the things involved in homosexual lifestyle and culture…

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    38. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Apologies about the prose, it would be nice to have the ability to edit comments, even if you're only given a short window of a few minutes after clicking the 'post comment' button!

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    39. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dania Ng

      " These tired old propagandist arguments that have no basis in fact (except made-up ones) are getting pretty well dogeared by now. Time to invent new ones?"

      Sorry? Pot. Kettle. Black.

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    40. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dania Ng

      You leap from defending the rights of gays to having equaal civil rights (something which has yet to be uniformly achieved in but a few countries, and is far from sight in most where a death-sentence may apply) to "You are attacking our value system, which is what the homosexualist movement is about."

      That is "disgusting and offensive".

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    41. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to mike williams

      Tell me Mike, if you are gay, what civil rights are you being denied, and which rights I, as a heterosexual person, am privy to in exclusion to you? And what, pray tell, do you mean by "gay rights"?
      And what does this discussion, which is focused on our (i.e., Australian) context have anything to do with the despicable things which are done to homosexuals (and Christians, Buddhists, etc) in other countries? But of course, another old tired homosexualist slogan, isn't it? Yes, the kinds of propagandist comments you make (e.g., "homosexuals are persecuted in other countries therefore you are guilty of it") are disgusting and offensive to me.

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    42. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "Tell me Mike, if you are gay, what civil rights are you being denied, and which rights I, as a heterosexual person, am privy to in exclusion to you?"

      Dania - we are back where we started:

      A coalition of christian interests has successfully fought to have the legal right to exclude homosexuals from their employment, purely on the basis of their sexual orientation. Therefore, homosexuals do not have the same civil rights as you and I. Despite the long quotes you have copied, that discrimination stands. Do you think it is reasonable?

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    43. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Dania Ng

      The right to be employed based on skills and competencies relevant to a job and not sexual orientation. These civil rights are being denied by the anti-discrimination exemption. I don't see how how you can credibly argue otherwise?

      For the record - I can see where certain jobs in religious organisations that specifically require living the espoused value of the religion (e.g priesthood) would include a requirement not to be, for example, in a same sex relationship. And although I find such…

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    44. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dania Ng

      " this discussion, which is focused on our (i.e., Australian) context"

      So you're free to introduce discussions on the United States, and the motives of 19th century Swedish immigrants, but everyone else must stick wholly to Australian contexts?

      Please lay out the rest of your rules for debate.

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    45. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to mike williams

      I for one am glad that she did. I reviewed sources (Putnam) that I have used scantily up until this point (and which I shall now use in my own work from this point. In addition Dania demonstrated the depths of her ideological commitment to a certain perspective and how that blinkers her view of the world - a useful lesson.

      Oh and she was so wrong on the motivations of Scandinavian migrants...

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    46. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Indeed, and I know a lot about the motivations of Scandinavian migrants as I have them in my family history. I spent a good chunk of last summer researching them online and in Sweden, tracing them back in time and then different branches forward in the diaspora.

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    47. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, I think we are talking about different things. It is not a civil right to demand that others change their religion to suit you. If the community and state determine not to fund service organisations because their value system includes the belief that homosexuality is a sin, then don't fund them! Simple. Then they can operate on their own funds. But if there is an exemption being legislated, then that means that the lobby group pushing for it is successful. Thus spake democracy, get used to it…

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    48. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to mike williams

      I think the rules are entirely of your own doing, Mike. The examples I gave are in respect to common attributes shared across mainly Anglophone societies. You are referring to attributes which are not shared. State murder of people for their sexual orientation is not being done in our societies. See the point? The trick used by homosexualists in this respect is the adage: "The homosexuals are persecuted here and elsewhere, just look at Iran where they are hanged merely for loving each other". It…

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    49. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      "Oh and she was so wrong on the motivations of Scandinavian migrants..."
      See my previous response. This statement enables me to rest my case in respect to your motivations for attacking me here with suitably selected and de-contextualised literature and quotes, and changing the subject. Like I said, I am happy to let others judge who is wrong regarding what contributes mostly to the generation of social capital, churches or gay bars. If this means I have ideological blinkers, then so be it; but note that you have been unable to address this question.

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    50. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I doubt you will receive an answer to such a direct question since it requires either admission of error or prejudice. Something no-one is comfortable doing?

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    51. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "Sue, I think we are talking about different things. It is not a civil right to demand that others change their religion to suit you."

      Yes, Dania, that appears to be so. I am still addressing the topic of this article - you are addressing something else.

      This discussion was never about making everyone "change their religion" - it is about according rights to paid employees. Industrial law and anti-discrimination law applies across society - not just to public sector employment. Most businesses are not publicly funded - and yet they must pay minimum wage and are subject to the laws of the land.

      SO it comes down to this: a homosexual person who is a practising christian may be legally refused employment, purely on the basis of that sexuality, all other things being equal. DO you think that is reasonable?

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    52. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "Dania - for someone who appears to be so widely read, your comments reflect a deeply entrenched view of non-heterosexual people as both different and deranged. Are you not aware that many people you walk past every day are normal human homosexual people, who are not "flaunting" anything?"
      Again, I think the crucial point is missed or ignored. I have no doubt that most homosexual and heterosexual people are behaving appropriately for the social circumstance they find themselves in. However, what…

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    53. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania - you keep skirting around the essential issue, giving examples of extreme behaviour.

      It still comes down to this:

      A homosexual person who is a practising christian may be legally refused employment, purely on the basis of that sexuality, all other things being equal. DO you think that is reasonable?

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    54. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "SO it comes down to this: a homosexual person who is a practising christian may be legally refused employment, purely on the basis of that sexuality, all other things being equal. DO you think that is reasonable?"
      No, I don't think that it is reasonable, but at the same time it doesn't ROUTINELY "comes down to this". You keep asking the same sort of questions, which point to cases which are extreme. That's fine, but can you list examples to demonstrate this has happened routinely? See, what you…

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    55. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      "Oh and she was so wrong on the motivations of Scandinavian migrants..."
      My best wishes for defending your thesis in a proper scholarly forum, Grendelus. Try to argue that economic motivations were the only "push factors" for Scandinavian emigrants. Try to leave out religious persecution. Try to leave out religious values. Try the trick of using terms interchangeably, as it suits your prejudiced intent in building your argument, like generalising in one part and specifying in another. For example, talk about 'Scandinavians' in one part, but then talk about 'Swedes' elsewhere, so that it leaves out people like the Danish Mormons. And try using terms imperfectly, like mixing migrant, emigrant and immigrant. Lastly, try being less arrogant about what (you think) you know, and listen carefully to what others are trying to say. I am just saying ...

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    56. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "However, what the homosexualists are asking for is that workplaces accept 'gay' culture and actively promote homosexuality and homosexual culture as normal." Leaving aside the questionable notion of a single 'gay culture' (is there a single 'straight culture' then? I for one certainly don't feel much cultural solidarity with the sort of heterosexuals that attend wet t-shirt competitions and B&S Balls...), do you also object to people 'flaunting their heterosexuality' by e.g. kissing in public, holding hands, etc? If not, why is it ok to 'flaunt' one's heterosexuality but not homosexuality?

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    57. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dania Ng

      No, Dania, you don't get it.

      I'm not just talking about extremes, I'm talking about the legal right to apply that specific type of discrimination (which is what this article and discussion are about, after all).

      If you agree that a person should not be able to be excluded from a job just on the basis of their sexual orientation, all other things being equal, then why do you keep arguing exactly the opposite?

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    58. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Lol Patrick, why such nonsense, instead of addressing the point you querry? But okay, let's see what we can make of this. Let's put aside the fact that, for me, neither of these is okay. However, there are some who are fine with wet T-Shirts but not with naked gay men rubbing against each other - and vice versa, of course. If I am not mistaken, in your logic it would be okay to force these groups to 'enjoy' the other particular taste for vulgar things. Or is it okay to force one group to do so, but not the other?
      For your information, the gay culture term comes up in the gay interest groups' submissions to the senate committee, and in various other literature and ad hoc stuff they propagate. It is actually their term, so is it then still questionable in your view?

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    59. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Yes, I would still question the assumption of a unitary gay culture, regardless of who makes it.

      We can both agree that nudity doesn't belong in the workplace (amazingly, this actually counts as progress in this discussion). I've yet to hear anyone calling for the right to walk around in their undies at work, however. What I am trying to get a handle on is what sort of behaviour you regard as 'flaunting' one's sexuality. Somewhere in this discussion you give the example of an aged care facility worker offending the residents by flaunting their homosexuality. What sort of behaviour are you actually concerned about here? I'd be grateful if you could be as specific as decorum will allow.

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    60. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "If you agree that a person should not be able to be excluded from a job just on the basis of their sexual orientation, all other things being equal, then why do you keep arguing exactly the opposite?"
      Because doing away with one right in order to introduce a new one is problematic, and is in itself a gross infringement on essential freedoms which ought to trump mere rights which cannot exist unless it extinguishes other rights. Freedom to find employ for a minute proportion of the work force is…

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    61. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      No, I'm not saying a religious worldview is an inessential add-on at all; indeed I explicitly warned against trivialising these beliefs. You keep claiming this is about making religious people change their religious beliefs (which, on the model of faith I've outlined here, would be likely impossible in any case). It isn't. It's about how we manage the clash between incompatible and fundamental world-views. The question, as I made clear in the article, isn't whether those who hold religious objections…

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    62. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick. You wiggle too much.
      "-we're talking simply about being there and being who they are. How does that prevent people from living their faith in any way?" Because they are there? You and I may see this as wrong, terribly wrong, but to someone of a deep conviction, it could be extremely distressing.

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    63. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Oh, and furthermore, freedom to practice one's religion is a fundamental human right. It is not not merely a civic right. A civic right might be something like an entitlement, for instance everyone being entitled to a minimum set of work conditions. The right to work is also a human right (Article 23); demanding that someone gives you a specific job against their will and their principles (whether religious or not), is not a human right. Having choice is a part of the right to work, but obliging someone to provide that choice is not.
      For those interested, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
      "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance".
      .

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    64. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      And so you agree then, Dania, that these exemptions are not about anything a gay person actually *does* in the workplace but simply their being there and being who they are. And thus you agree with me that they are being discriminated against not on the basis of job performance but simply on the basis of identity.

      I'm not denying the obvious fact that some people find it distressing to be around gay people. Some people find it distressing to be around people from different religions and different…

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    65. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Patrick. Here's the trick you're employing. Re-phrase the opposing argument to portray it as being (at least in part) congruent with yours. Then equate (metaphorise) the bit of the opposing argument you don't agree with with extraneous examples by making such examples sound identical situations. The analogies referred to are (no surpise there!) examples of obnoxious treatment of individuals because of their colour, gender, ethnicity. Then come back to a more minor part of the argument you feel we…

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    66. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Well at least you've identified a clear point of disagreement: I maintain those are perfectly valid analogies and you do not. We're not talking about sexual practices, but sexual identity, which in turn is largely shaped by preferences that we have no control over. That makes sexual identity analogous to race and gender for present purposes.

      You're also hanging a lot of your argument on things like international human rights law, which is hardly relevant philosophically, and some fairly tendentious claims about the existence of universal vs. civic rights and inalienable vs. limited rights. You'd have to do a lot of establishing argument for that.

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    67. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Dania Ng

      "Being a homosexual or a heterosexual does not force you to act upon your heterosexuality or homosexuality. " Herein lies the problem Dania.

      A persons sexuality is such a fundamental part of their humanity. Your argument seems to be that homosexuality is fine as long as they are celibate? That it is functionally different from race because race is not a matter of choice? And that sexuality might be (the evidence says it isn't) - and that even if sexuality isn't a matter of choice the act is…

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    68. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, we have been over these various points elsewhere, so I am not sure why we're doing so again. But here are some bits from your prose, which is so standard that you could find hundreds of explanations which are much more articulate than mine on the internet.
      "No, a person's sexuality doesn't "force" them to act on it - but if you repress your nature what pathologies emerge? To deny a person the right to express who they are is to deny the person" >>> How does not agreeing to work with or buy…

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    69. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania - I think you are making an error in logic. And I do not think you have addressed my argument properly or directly. Perhaps I wasn't clear so I will try again. I will ask direct questions
      to which you might consent to provide direct answers?

      First, I completely accept your point that (regardless of matters of choice) for some people religious affiliation can be intrinsic to their identity. And I would not want to discriminate against them because of that. Do you accept that the same…

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    70. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark. I will try to be as direct in my responses as I can, but you need to focus on what I am saying, please.
      In response to your first question, yes, I can understand the argument that sexual identity is crucial to someone's identity. This is not something I query, except when this is taken to be somehow superior to other identities, like religiosity. My argument, I suggest, was aimed at clarifying that saying one can change their mind about their religion, whereas they can't about their sexuality…

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  38. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    Thank you Patrick for this most insightful article.

    To me, there are several issues operating concurrently:

    Firstly, as you say, these organisations are operating in wider society, providing services that are paid and traded. They therefore have responsibilities within our civil society that are different to the rules that can govern membership or ordination within their religious groups. As employers, they have different responsibilities and obligations to membership organisations.

    Second…

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    1. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue
      "In that sense, sexual orientation - or behaviour - has been elevated to a greater moral significance than - say - stealing, tax evasion or a myriad of other evils."

      I'm pretty sure if you said during a job interview that in your spare time, you steal cars and have sex with other men's wives, you'd be out the door pretty quickly.

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      That's not the point, Kim. These institutions are not asking for exemptions for people who cheat on their tax returns or have sex with other people's partners. Heterosexual marital infidelity has not been requested to have special legal status.

      A job interview is not like entering the confessional - you are not expected to declare all the things you do that are not strictly in accordance with church doctrine. My point (as you probably know) is about the arbitrary selection of which sins are intolerable in an employee.

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      "These institutions are not asking for exemptions for people who cheat on their tax returns or have sex with other people's partners"
      Can you translate this for me Dr Ieraci? Any non-state employer is quite free to refuse to employ anyone for cheating on their tax returns or being an adulterer if they wish to. Why should they ask for an exemption for a legal requirement that doesn't even exist?

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    4. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Suppose the interview, though, was with a company that makes cars with reclining seats especially for married women?

      Mightn't they offer you a job in the quality control department?

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  39. June Sellers

    Educator

    I have first hand experience of this having been given a contract which included signing that I agree to the 'lifestyle clause' which stated that I was not to be involved in homosexual activities. Even though straight, I refused to sign it. Technically I could adhere to it, but morally I couldnt overlook the implications of this 'lifestyle clause'. The issue then became that they would not employ me because of my views, not actually because of my sexuality. So despite being over qualified for the…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to June Sellers

      I rather doubt your story, June. Sorry but I think there could perhaps be a little more to it. Are you referring to someone working for the organisation doing this to you, or to the organisation's policy? Because the two are different, as you no doubt know. Anyone may decide to discriminate against a person, this does not mean that it is the policy of the organisation for which they work. If it was the latter, then you should be able to point us to the organisation's policy, and we can see the veracity of your claim.

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    2. June Sellers

      Educator

      In reply to Dania Ng

      The fact that you doubt my 'story' surely shows how much is allowed currently, by law, that most would consider bizarre.
      The organisation has a black and white policy that includes a Lifestyle clause which states that employees must not have extra-marital affairs, take drugs, drink alcohol to excess or enage in homsexual activities.
      I cant share this as I too legal action after they withdrew the job offer and the settlement included a gagging order.
      From a legal standpoint they have every right to have this clause, and to withdraw the offer if I failed to agree to it. I threatened to share this document publically which is why I got a settlement. I would have lost the legal argument.
      There is so much that goes on that the public have no idea of, and yet they are actually protected by law - because of the very laws discussed in this article.

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to June Sellers

      "I cant share this as I too legal action after they withdrew the job offer and the settlement included a gagging order". Right ... but you can share the rest of your story? I am sorry, but I would like to know the other side of the story before I jump to any conclusion that you have been discriminated against.

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    4. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to June Sellers

      June, thanks for taking the courage to share, what must have been a very stressful part of your life. I'm sure there are others wit similar stories who haven't shared them. Hope all is well with you and your career. We need more teachers like you who are willing to take the moral high ground, as well as 'be there' for the youngster who is struggling with their sexuality.

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    5. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to June Sellers

      "What worried me, with regards to the job, was the fact that my question 'so what happens when one of your students tells a teacher he is gay?' was not answered."

      Seriously Julie? Not answered? Not at all or just an answer you didn't agree with?

      Most hard core Xians can talk the hind legs of donkeys if given their head with a question like that. I might ask an Xian a question like that, but I would checking out my quickest route to the nearest exit first.

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    6. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to June Sellers

      This brings to mind, the former teacher of a Catholic school who lost her position in 2006, over concerns of a priest.
      She was still horrified [in 2012], at the blatant disregard to the ongoing plight at the time of her submission to the Parliamentry Inquiry, of the many students placed at risk by the convicted paedophile priest's in her parish.
      Thats religious discrimination gone mad!

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  40. Mark Christensen

    Social commentator

    For a lecturer in philosophy, your logic is rather confused.

    Any conviction - moral, religious, affectionate, whatever - is private, since, as you point out, our beliefs cannot be explained through reason alone. That said, one should be open to a rational examination, even if, in the end, we are left with a "just because".

    The objection to religious conviction is a reflection of its dogmatic nature. You don't like "them" being certain about their metaphysics.

    While understandable, you…

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    1. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Christensen

      I think you need to take a course in morality and maybe epistimology.

      Your comment is deeply confused, requiring common ground for moral discourse is not "Just Because" there are reasons behind it.

      Like the reason why murder is wrong - its not because of a subjective morality, its not "Just because we said so" - its because it impinges on the liberty and rights of others - your right to swing your fist stops at my nose

      You seem to have approached secular morality in government in the same way that the religious would approach moral convictions - this is a mistake

      Yes most of the western world have a secular morality that can be justified by reason, logic and evidence. The opposite of having a government use secular morality which can be accessed by all is to have a Theocracy - which is fine if your in the in group - not so fine if your in the out group

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Mark Christensen

      I'm not sure I see the contradiction. We may hold radically incompatible moral beliefs (not even anything to do with religion - one of us could be a utilitarian and the other a deontologist), each of which ultimately traces back to intuitions that don't allow of further rational justification. But when we come to do public ethics, we need at least some sort of common ground on which we can work out what sort of arrangements we're going to adopt. That in turn rules out moral claims that we can never agree on, and axioms that depend entirely on revelation will tend to fall into that category. (And yes, that does seem to open up a gap between moral philosophy as a theoretical search for moral truth and public ethics as a practical activity, and that gap may be controversial. In a sense, though, that gap is built into the whole liberal-democratic project itself).

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    3. Mark Christensen

      Social commentator

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      It's true the liberal project assumes a common ground, because without which we'd decline to work together for moral and other forms of progress. The issue is, it now mistakenly believes it can close the gap. It's pragmatic, working assumption has become dogma, as reflected in your willingness to back doctrine as a means of social engineering.

      To argue the exemption is the problem is to presume the legislation is the solution, when it is not.

      I don't believe I hold radically incompatible moral…

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    4. Mark Christensen

      Social commentator

      In reply to Michael Shand

      You are tripped up in your own sophistry, wanting to believe convenient truths.

      To be meaningful the idea of "rights" must come with punitive force. You believe me punching you to be a sin, and want the law to act accordingly. In this way, modern democracy is no different to theocracy. The only variation is who makes the rules and the types of threats and punishments. Both institutions believe they possess the Truth and exercise it in the name of God or freedom. Both are elitist - you clearly think, as does the author, you are smarter, more moral than dim-witted Christians who think homosexuality is "wrong".

      Your version of right and wrong creates groups as well, but you justify this on the basis that we could all be together IF ONLY these other idiots agreed with my morality (sound familiar?). You just take comfort from being in the larger group and participating in its groupthink.

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    5. Rajan Venkataraman

      Citizen

      In reply to Mark Christensen

      Hi Mark
      Apologies for butting into the conversation but I can't help but feel that we only confuse the issue when we argue whose epistemiological reasoning is flawed, whether equivalence of moral reasoning is justified or what the "liberal project" is or is not trying to achieve.

      Isn't the issue here simply whether you or I can be justifiably discriminated against in this society on the basis of our colour, religious belief, age, sexual orientation etc (i.e., what values do we hold about this…

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    6. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Christensen

      "To be meaningful the idea of "rights" must come with punitive force. You believe me punching you to be a sin, and want the law to act accordingly"

      I will refer you to my earlier comment

      You seem to have approached secular morality in government in the same way that the religious would approach moral convictions - this is a mistake

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    7. Mark Christensen

      Social commentator

      In reply to Rajan Venkataraman

      Hi, Rajan.

      Not sure I follow. But my key point is this: all political/moral activism - liberal, religious, whatever - is premised on humans being able to rationally fulfill their epistemological/ideological goals. The author has inferred this is impossible, since there is an infinite gap between the head and the heart (or, as Pascal said, the heart has its reasons which reason cannot know). And I agree. What he doesn't like is the logical implication. Questions like "does this country believe…

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    8. Roger Simpson

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Hi Patrick,

      As a philosophy graduate and advocate I am very pleased to see Philosophy academics such as yourself entering public debate. It is refreshing and something we desperately need. Thanks!

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  41. Angus McLeay

    Manager

    Thanks Patrick for a concise, well-argued piece. The scope of laws against discrimination has been gradually expanding, with the broad support of society. Yet some interest groups are vocal opponents and have become strange bedfellows in campaigns against law reform (such as Ayn Rand-followers and conservative evangelicals). An earlier commenter noted the relative lack of fuss raised when religious exemptions were announced as part of then new laws against discrimination. I think reasons for this…

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  42. Tom Keen

    PhD Candidate; Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

    Another great article from Patrick Stokes - I think I'm seeing a trend. Thank you.

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  43. Roger Powell

    logged in via Facebook

    With this legislation, religion forfeits any right to lecture others on morality.

    They agree it is immoral to discriminate but insist on preserving their own right to do just that. The implied threat being that a large bloc of votes will be withdrawn if the government dose not comply.

    In my opinion that's not just immoral, it's corrupt.

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  44. Anne Powles

    logged in via Twitter

    On a different tack entirely, it seems to me that to allow exemptions to discrimination legislation goes to promoting further discrimination in hitherto innocent parties.

    A considerable number of employees of religious groups work in religious schools or Non Government Agencies providing help in the community. By definition of their very ages children cannot really belong to a "membership group" belonging to any religion as they do not have the capacity to fully understand and make choices. Therefore restricting their exposure to some ideas in the community as expressed by others will encourage their future outlook to be discriminatory and I do not feel that, as a community, we can allow this to happen.

    I can imagine their could also be a considerable bias demonstrated in the adinistration of social welfare help if the givers are restricted to a certain belief system.

    Any support of discrimination can have wide and unfortunate consequences.

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  45. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    It is utterly bizzare to think that we've enacted anti-discrimination protections under law, but that law actually says "well, if you personally really believe in discrimination, you're exempt from anti-discrimination law.". That is what this is saying, to put it succinctly.

    If we can accept "religious opt-out" from anti-discrimination law, that's really what we're saying. And it's utterly obscene. What is the point of having anti-discrimination law if people who believe in discrimination are just exempted?

    It's the stupidest thing since "religious objection" to vaccination, where people are still allowed to claim vaccination incentive payments.

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  46. Jeremy cavanagh

    Engineer

    I just wanted to comment that Patrick Stokes doesn't seem to understand that the judeo/christian worldview can be rationally based. In fact I am quite surprised that he doesn't understand this.

    For example he says, ". I doubt anyone has ever been moved from atheism into genuine religious faith (as opposed to mere lip service) by force of rational argument alone."

    Thats just ignorance because plenty of people have taken on the judeo/christian worldview through rational argument. Two public examples…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      I'm using 'faith' in Kierkegaard's sense Jeremy, according to which simply agreeing that, say, the teleological or cosmological argument is true doesn't count as faith. A belief in God that isn't subjetively transformative, or a belief that is contingent upon rational argument, isn't faith.

      Flew became, at most, a deist - which is about as far as rational assent to the standard apologetic arguments could take someone, a long way short of faith in the strong sense. Lewis' conversion to Christianity…

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    2. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thankyou for your reply.

      Sorry, my information is that Flew described himself as a theist and that it was other people who described him as a deist while Richard Dawkins simply said he had lost his mind.

      Thankyou for setting out that you follow Kierkegaard's ideas on faith but surely that is different from how someone may make rational conclusions on issues arising from belief/worldview - whether they take a stance of faith or if their stance is entirely based on rational assent (I don't believe the descriptor, 'faith' is only applicable to those readily described by the construct, 'religious'). But it is many years since I read Kierkegaard.

      So, I don't think your use of Kierkegaard is valid in describing what christian groups may or may not be doing or thinking wrt to employing of people who don't hold to the same worldview.

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      I'll take your word for it on Flew's theism; in any case I agree he was treated pretty shabbily when he converted.

      And yes, we agree that "someone may make rational conclusions on issues arising from belief/worldview - whether they take a stance of faith or if their stance is entirely based on rational assent;" but that's a point about how we reason from premises rather than whether we can share premises to begin with. As a non-believer I can reason that, say, if the Christian God exists then His nature must be thus-and-so, and you can then point out where my reasoning has gone wrong (that is, we can argue about theology and about theological ethics); but the belief *that* God exists doesn't seem to be something for which we can establish a truth-value through reason alone. But again, you're right that I'm using some Kierkegaardian categories here that I've not defended, and that is a potential weakness in the argument.

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    4. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Dania,

      Thanks very much for that article. Very interesting, I have only skimmed through it and there is lots in it. I can well understand the idea of book keeping instead of understanding sin on the part of certain christian groups i.e. the much referred to religious right. The only issue I would take with the author is their limiting the discussion to the so called religious right, christian groups have many different flavours (e.g. that fine Australian Penny Wong describes herself as a christian…

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      You're welcome, Jeremy. I don't agree with Jaarsma's re-interpretation of Kierkegaard, but I am glad you found it interesting and worthy of further reading.

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  47. Iain Stewart

    Associate Professor at Macquarie University

    My take on the “religious exemption” clauses of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 is that they appear to be simply unworkable.

    This is because the Bill does not define “religion” and probably could not usefully do so. No such definition is in the exposure draft Bill or in the accompanying Explanatory Notes. Neither is such a definition incorporated by reference from anywhere else. Nor is there anywhere else from where it could readily be drawn, although three sources might…

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    1. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to Iain Stewart

      Thankyou for that. A number of people have pointed to the High Court/Scinetology/Tax thing as the last word in defining that construct, 'religion' and you have well summarised the limitations that the judges themselves set out.

      My point of view is that anything you worship is being religious, so the middle aged guy who has lovingly restored a 1971 orange Charger to mint condition and lavishes money, time and love on such a car is undertaking 'religion'. How faith comes into that I am not sure, perhaps it doesn't need to.

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Iain Stewart

      Thanks for an excellent comment Iain! We have the same problem in philosophy as the ABS and the courts have had: it's notoriously hard to come up with a definition of religion, either substantive or functional, that maps neatly onto our pre-theoretical views about what does and doesn't count as a religion. Coming up with a definition of religion that includes Buddhism but excludes Marxism, for instance, has proven maddeningly difficult.

      (See also the Indian Supreme Court's attempts to define who does and doesn't count as a Hindu: I'm going by memory here but they ended up with a disjunctive definition to the effect that someone is a Hindu if they self-identify religiously as a Hindu or if they live in India and do not belong to an official religious minority).

      The best approach philosophically seems to be a 'family resemblances' approach, but I don't know that such an approach could be workable in a legal context.

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    3. Iain Stewart

      Associate Professor at Macquarie University

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thank you very much, Patrick. The judgments in the Scientology Case are unusually deductive, perhaps because their authors are being pulled out of their legal comfort zone. It is actually quite common for judges to engage in something like a "family resemblance" operation when identifying membership of a category. But, as Wittgenstein was aware, to find "family resemblance" is not by itself to draw a boundary.

      Judges usually need to draw a boundary: here, they would need to determine whether…

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    4. Iain Stewart

      Associate Professor at Macquarie University

      In reply to Iain Stewart

      On further research: I'd be tempted to rest my case after reading the decision of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Cobaw Community Health Services v Christian Youth Camps [2010] VCAT 1613 (organisation concerned with homosexual youth suicide wishing to book into a Christian Brothers youth camp). The case took 14 sitting days and involved 7 counsel (including 2 senior counsel), the decision runs to 83 pages, and the costs for Cobaw alone appear to have reached at least $50,000…

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  48. Kim Darcy

    Analyst

    I am an atheist, am contemptuous of anti-gay sentiments and actions, and that if the Catholic Church does not drop its celibacy requirement for clergy, it will disappear from the "western" world, and - along with Islam - become a cultural institution confined to Africa. Even though I think these sentiments are dying rapidly - one fundie funeral at a time - the reality is that in 2013 they still exist. Having said that, there are some very serious problems with this piece, largely due a growing fanaticism…

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    1. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Thanks for your comment Kim. A few responses:

      1. I cheerfully concede the (Foucaultian) point about the historical contingency of sexual identity, and also that people are not *wholly* defined by “what they like to do with their bits and pieces.” However I would maintain that our sexuality is still quite integral to our sense of practical identity, and our intimate relationships certainly are. It’s a characteristic of long-term intimate relationships that they contour our lives, our sense of who…

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    2. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Patrick, but I'm afraid you've just dug deeper and deeper holes into your argument. Matt King's post above says it all - you really are blind to what a mirror image of the religionists thinking you claim to abhor.

      1. Foucaultian? Gaita-inflected? "historical contingency of sexual identity"? I have no idea what you are talking about. Are they as good as Tertullian, Augustine, and Locke? None of that is relevant. The point is that it was rational empirical scientists…

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    3. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Hi Kim,

      1. Well I'm a philosopher talking about philosophy. So fair enough if you're not interested in the fact that Foucault makes the point you're making about the invention of homsexuality, though with greater historical accuracy and conceptual depth. But to paraphrase the famous line from 'They Live,' I have come here to chew bubblegum and do philosophy, and I am all out of bubblegum.

      On Jeffrey John (not a friend of mine by the way, I've never met the man), here's a recap of our exchange…

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    4. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Fair enough Patrick. It's true that my response to the English cleric was not a serious rebuttal. While I will treat your example with some formal argumentative respect, I must first repeat how idiotic and totally unsympathetic that dude's situation is. This is the 21st century, he is a grown educated man, living in the rich and free world, yet is tearing himself apart. What sort of grown adult is celibate by choice, or for non-pathological reasons?

      1. In theory, we'd say Catholic clergy, but…

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    5. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Thanks Kim. I agree that on some level, something has gone pretty badly wrong when someone feels they have to remain celibate within the confines of a romantic relationship. It's hard not to conclude his celibacy is a direct result of precisely the teaching on sexuality and marriage you mention - but then I don't know what goes on in his head or his house, and as someone or other once said: other people's marriages are a foreign country, and no-one else speaks the language. I understand John wasn't…

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  49. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    For those who are disturbed by the choice of picture at the head - I expect one of the editors will own up and reassure you that they were not chosen by the author.

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  50. Matt King

    Professor, School of Geography and Environmental Studies at University of Tasmania

    Dear Patrick

    Your article made me think of a scenario: there was a man whose world view affected everything he ever thought and did. One day he met another man whose world view ran equally deep and also affected everything he ever thought and did. On meeting, the two found their world views were entirely incompatible and they insisted the other must suppress it. So they just yelled at each other : "you're going to have to change"..

    Your article suggests you don't recognise that you are one…

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    1. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Matt King

      "is not possible for a Christian to compartmentalise their world view, which affects all they think and do, and leave it at home or at church - that would be hypocrisy."

      I have a couple of problems with this statement. Firstly you are implying that Christians cannot live (or endure) in a secular society as they will continually run up against the conflicting beliefs of others, including as we know from recent history, other Christian sects.

      Secondly, millions of Christians do routinely compartmentalise…

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    2. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to mike williams

      Mike,

      Aren't you just assuming that a secular society is incompatible with a christian worldview? Why? Secularism arose from a protestant view of society and in secularism society's institutions are neutral toward worldviews. I am both a christian and secularist and I don't see any conflict. In the issue of judeo/christian organisations and how they work out their employment policies we should also examine how society's institutions take a neutral stance on this issue that also maintain's no harm…

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    3. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      Precisely. Except, the coexistence of secularism and a Christian worldview long predate Protestantism. In fact, it was Jesus Christ himself who was the first to separate church and state:

      "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's".
      Matthew 22:21

      On this point, I think the religionists have got a lot right in resisting Caesar's moral imperialism.

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    4. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      I am not saying that it is incompatible but the way that you phrase makes it seem so.

      "Secularism arose from a protestant view of society"

      Well no, secularism was evident in states that predate Protestantism.

      " That means they are not compartmentalising their worldview indeed they are taking steps to test or expand their worldview."
      They are compartmentalising their religious beliefs to secure a place in a wider society with diverse beliefs.

      " Some catholic christians will ignore…

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    5. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      @Kim: "I think the religionists have got a lot right in resisting Caesar's moral imperialism." - except that a great deal of vocal religionists insist that everything is God's and leave nothing but street-cleaning and postage stamps to Caesar.

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    6. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to mike williams

      Mike, and I also those particular religionists have got a lot wrong. ;) But I think they would be a marginal minority, at least among Christians.

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    7. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to mike williams

      "They are compartmentalising their religious beliefs to secure a place in a wider society with diverse beliefs. "

      You are rejecting that someone's understanding of a particular issue or topic may change or develop, whatever their worldview. You have no basis for this.

      I very much disagree with you charge of theological gerrymandering. There are things central to christian belief e.g. the person and nature of Christ then there are things that aren't e.g. contraception and it up to christians…

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    8. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Kim,

      You are right that the idea of secularism predates protestanism e.g. your quote of Jesus but I think the protestants were the first to develop it at a society/state level.

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    9. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      " think they would be a marginal minority, at least among Christians."

      They're the ones with the money and political clout.

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    10. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      "You are rejecting that someone's understanding of a particular issue or topic may change or develop, whatever their worldview. You have no basis for this."

      No, you are making strawman arguments.

      " There are things central to christian belief e.g. the person and nature of Christ then there are things that aren't"
      There are plenty of Christian sects who disagree on this. Or are you going to make the No True Scotsman argument?

      " So I'm not gonna sit around and let someone label me 'religious…

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    11. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Matt King

      Dear Matt

      Beautifully illustrated; however, I think that Patrick does precisely that. In fact, my impression is that he's more of a disaffected or doubting Catholic and perhaps something of an agnostic. But as to being a self-professed athiest, that he certainly is not.

      Patrick plays out his existential crisis with considerably disguised angst, athough always eloquently, in the manner of Philip Adams on ABC RN, in these columns. Anybody with a brain like his, a capacity to select who he will respond to and an enduring sense of politeness and perspicacity has to have a God to wrestle with.

      And, by the way, he's right to oppose these exemptions, as indeed are many Christians, such as myself, who support him.

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    12. Jeremy cavanagh

      Engineer

      In reply to mike williams

      I don't see how you can cry "strawman" as I answered directly your charge of compatmentalisation. You have not justified this sweeping generalisation and added to it another completely unsubstantiated sweeping assertion about the central beliefs of catholics. Your use of the true scotsman charge is erroneous because a) if you did some research you would find, as I stated previously, that christians down the ages have centrally indentified their belief around the person and nature of Christ i.e…

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    13. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your excellent contributions to this discussion; I've been meaning to reply to you and several other commentators here but have been caught up with offline commitments and resulting sporadic internet access.

      I have actually outed myself as an atheist on these pages previously, but maybe I'm a funny sort of atheist; more Critchley than Dawkins I guess.

      Anyway, hoping to sit down and type out some more considered responses to people early next week. In the meantime, thanks everyone for your contributions - yes, even you Dania :)

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    14. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jeremy cavanagh

      "I don't see how you can cry "strawman" as I answered directly your charge of compatmentalisation."

      You answered by redefining the behaviour as its opposite.

      " added to it another completely unsubstantiated sweeping assertion about the central beliefs of catholics."

      Which was?

      "but just yelling, "strawman" or "true scotsman" or "ad hom" are not arguments."

      So how does one respond to "So I'm not gonna sit around and let someone label me 'religious' because its likely to be defective…

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    15. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to mike williams

      Mike Williams

      Mike, go and play some table tennis, because at least you'll have someone returning what you serve.

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    16. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Matt King

      Hi Matt,

      Sorry for not replying to your excellent comment sooner; have been caught up with some real-world commitments the last few days.

      I think you’re absolutely right to draw attention to deep incompatibility between worldviews that’s in play here, and to what believers are often asked to give up. Soteriology changes everything, and I can imagine that it’s incredibly hard for those who believe people they love are cutting themselves off from God. Conversely, you sometimes hear some atheists…

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    17. Matt King

      Professor, School of Geography and Environmental Studies at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Patrick Stokes

      Hi Patrick

      Thanks for the considered reply. I've not read the legislation proposed (I was drawn into this discussion by your article rather than a direct vested interest), so you should correct me if I have the facts wrong, but is it not the case that the proposed exemption would simply mean the relevant groups would retain the right they *currently already have* under present legislation. If my understanding is correct, then in arguing for a change to the "rights" of various groups I think it…

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    18. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Matt King

      Hi Mark,

      You're quite correct that the proposed new legisation - as I understand it - extends the existing exemptions. But if we take it that discrimination in the relevant sense is, all else being equal, wrong, then once a practice has been acknowledged to be discriminatory then we already have a prima facie reason to discontinue it, meaning that there's no longer a presumption in favour of the status quo. The question then becomes whether there is any justification for keeping the exemption…

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  51. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    Dear Patrick

    Yet another carefully argued piece attracting, mostly, some very fine contributions on both sides, including nuanced 'high-value' interjections from yourself at just the right intervals.

    Not to quibble or digress, but I'd like to comment on the following:

    Anti-discrimination exemptions relating to gay persons do not obtain in any other polity, except for the United States. In the three UK jurisdictions as well as in NZ, where Catholic schools are part of the public sector education…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Terribly important points you make here, in my view, Michael. I want to pick one of them for a further comment here, if I may - only because it is something I wanted to reply to elsewhere but didn't get much of a chance to do so. You rightly said,
      "...the assertion that non-government schools receive more state-aid than government schools simply defies logic, since government schools are fully-funded, in the main by state governments, with supplementary funding, though less of it than for non-government…

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    2. Patrick Stokes

      Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Thanks for your kind words Michael, and for this excellent comment. Your research sounds fascinating: any chance you could write some of it up as a Conversation article? I'd be very interested to read it.

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    3. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Dania Ng

      The author has taken the issue of Gays to be the main group concerned by this infamous fatwa issued by Australia's religious groups-mainly the Catholic church. Whereas I take it as being a con-job and a massive, albeit sick, practical joke.

      1) The Australian Constitution makes it clear that we are free to worship God, or no God, and that we are a secular nation. WTF does any religious organisation get off in expecting they are the only people in the electorate?

      2) Religions, there's masses…

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  52. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    Oops! I was going to conclude that the dilemma is about whether those who love justice but disagree about religion can set aside their differences to proceed to a resolution on this matter.

    Apologies for the long post.

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  53. Theo Pertsinidis
    Theo Pertsinidis is a Friend of The Conversation.

    ALP voter

    On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’

    Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’

    And Vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’

    But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’

    And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither
    safe, nor politic, nor popular, but must do it because Conscience says
    it is right.

    The Greek Orthodox Church has stated it will not marry homosexuals even if it is legal to do so. I agree with the stance. It's not the society I want to be transformed to. I am Greek Orthodox myself.

    Home and Away in good and bad conditions, the ALP has looked after me better.

    If evils are equal, it is easy to see why a person may want to change to an untried evil. But if evils aren't the same, I'll choose the lesser of evils.

    This is the challenge facing us.

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    1. mike williams

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Theo Pertsinidis

      The Greek Orthodox church will also not marry people of other faiths even though it is perfectly legal for them to do so. I don't believe anyone is asking them to do any such thing. However in matters of employment and other issues of social concern then they are basically a non-tax paying corporation that is seeking exemption to discriminate as it will.

      That aside, I can't tell what your position is on the larger matter.

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    2. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Theo Pertsinidis

      Agreed, Theo; if you're saying the aforesaid questions are critical and that conscience must rule supreme, I would doubt if any Christian as well as quite a few others, religious or secular, would disagree with that.

      These are really questions about ethics and personal conviction, that you raise, rather than about religion and are of the kind that preoccupied Thomas More and which led to his judicial execution. (It certainly balances matters out that there's a Catholic Thomas More for every tyrannical Torquemada).

      Re. the Orthodox Church, while Dostoevsky, whose work was highly instrumental in Manning Clark's conversion to Catholicism, was Russian Orthodox, and no religious group, Christian or otherwise, the exclusive arbiter, reservoir and zenith of religious and spiritual perfection, my sense is that Orthodoxy suffers from its erastian nature and is often the victim of its subordinacy to the nation state.

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  54. Mark Harrigan

    PhD Physicist

    Thanks for this - there is another interesting perspective on this in the Age today by Joumanah El Matrah

    http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/shutting-out-the-sinners-feeds-bigotry-20130117-2cw0w.html

    (I do hope TC does not object to links to rival media? ;-> )

    A few excepts that resonated with my own perspective

    "In allowing religious organisations to discriminate, it is not religion that is protected but the institutionalisation of conservative religious forces who…

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  55. Phill Herbert

    Self funded

    I find it astonishing in contemporary Australia the State, both at State and Federal levels is implicitly involved in discrimination. Should you apply for a position in either you will come across an equal employment opportunity clause, however there are entire sections of health and welfare related Departments disseminating public funds to religious organisations that can, and will discriminate. It could be put that Departments are bastions for homophobia!

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    1. Kim Darcy

      Analyst

      In reply to Phill Herbert

      Phil, every day, every single one of us is "implicitly involved in discrimination" of one kind of another; just as likely to be "explicit" even. I really do wish people would stop this increasing d/reification of "discrimination", as it is now starting to sound like dress-wearing sexless man thumping some religious text on his lectern, hissing and fuming at his congregation for their "involvement in SIN". It is simply pointless and vacuous to get on your high horse about such an ambiguous noun as "discrimination". In fact, if I were to encounter somebody who was never involved in 'discrimination', I would presume it was because they were an oaf and a dullard.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Kim Darcy

      Kim - I think this is splitting hairs? In this context discrimination has a clear definition

      "Discrimination is the prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, such as their age, ethnicity, gender/sex, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, skin color, or other characteristics.[1] It involves the group's initial reaction or interaction, influencing the individual's actual behavior towards the group…

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